After a number of players refused to don LGBTQ pride jerseys due to their religious beliefs, reports claim that the NHL is considering doing away with the practice altogether.
In an interview with CTV News, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called the media flurry around the events a “distraction,” citing the league’s need to also respect the personal beliefs of its players.
“This is the first time we’ve experienced that, and I think it’s something that we’re going to have to evaluate in the offseason. This is one issue where players for a variety of reasons may not feel comfortable wearing the uniform as a form of endorsement,” said Bettman.
“But I think that’s become more of a distraction now, because the substance of what our teams and we have been doing and stand for is really being pushed to the side for what is a handful of players basically have made personal decisions, and you have to respect that as well.”
Brothers Eric and Marc Staal and Buffalo Sabres player Ilya Lyubushkin were the latest to refuse to wear a pride-themed jersey, following San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer.
Earlier this year, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov also made a similar decision to opt out of pre-game warmups.
“After many thoughts, prayers and discussions we have chosen not to wear a Pride Night jersey tonight. We carry no judgement on how people choose to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey,” the Staal brothers said in a statement.
“Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a pride jersey it goes against our Christian beliefs. We hope you can respect this statement. We will not be speaking any further on this matter and would like to continue to focus on the game and helping the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup.”
Players who refuse to wear pride jerseys have faced vehement public backlash over their decisions.