NHL’s decision to ban Pride Tape ‘eradicates visibility’: You Can Play | Globalnews.ca


The You Can Play Project, which advocates for inclusion and diversity in sports including LGBTQ2 athletes, coaches and fans, is slamming the NHL’s updated guidance banning symbols like Pride Tape.

The Pride Tape team, supported by You Can Play, said it was “extremely disappointed by the NHL’s decision to eliminate Pride Tape from any league on-ice activities.”

The advocacy group said many players have been “exceptional advocates for the tape” and it hopes the league – and teams – “will again show commitment to this important symbol of combating homophobia.”

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The league recently clarified what players can and cannot do as part of theme celebrations for the 2023-2024 season.

The NHL decided in June not to allow team members to wear any theme jerseys for warmups after a handful of players opted out. The league said that it was a distraction from the work teams were doing in the community.

Click to play video: 'NHL jersey controversy: LGBTQ2 communities fear hockey league giving into hostilities'

NHL jersey controversy: LGBTQ2 communities fear hockey league giving into hostilities

“The community is not a distraction,” You Can Play board chair David Palumbo said.

“Calling it a distraction, calling this a special cause or concern, is not productive.

“This is a simple concept,” Palumbo added. “It’s simply an existence of a community recognizing that you exist. There is not special treatment. We are not a special cause. This isn’t special considerations or anything like that.

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“Kids, especially at the very early levels of sports, they leave sports early because they don’t feel that it’s a place for them, they don’t feel they can be themselves.”

Click to play video: 'NHL bans ’cause-based’ jersey during Pride Month'

NHL bans ’cause-based’ jersey during Pride Month

In a statement issued Tuesday, You Can Play said the NHL’s policy decision “is not the way forward.”

“It is now clear that the NHL is stepping back from its longstanding commitment to inclusion, and continuing to unravel all of its one-time industry-leading work on 2SLGBTQ+ belonging,” the group said.

“We are now at a point where all the progress made, and relationships established with our community, is in jeopardy. Making decisions to eradicate our visibility in hockey — by eliminating symbols like jerseys and now Pride Tape — immediately stunts the impact of bringing in more diverse fans and players into the sport.”

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You Can Play said it continues to be encouraged by its work and conversations with individual clubs and it is trying to keep Pride Nights in place as “vibrant events, providing visibility and a message of inclusion to the entire hockey community all year-round.

“We know this issue is not within the hundreds of dedicated staff within individual clubs who go to work daily to create a culture of belonging for everyone, everywhere in the hockey ecosystem.”

You Can Play is calling on allies, players, fans and coaches at every level of hockey to “remind the NHL #WhyThisMatters,” adding that “hockey is safer and better when more of us belong.”

Click to play video: 'NHL faces controversy over Pride Nights'

NHL faces controversy over Pride Nights

Two Edmonton Oilers players were asked about the NHL’s decision and both Zach Hyman and Connor McDavid said they were disappointed. Both have been vocal in their support of the team’s involvement in Pride events in the past.

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“It’s pretty clear where I personally stand on Pride,” Hyman said on Tuesday. “It’s a league-mandated thing. It’s not exclusive to Pride. We can’t really do anything. We can’t put any tape on our stick. All the jerseys, I think, are gone.

“It’s out of our hands. I know personally I enjoyed wearing the Pride jersey, the Pride Tape, the military jersey… Indigenous night, all those great things we support. We’ll be able to support them individually, but collectively, that’s out of the players’ control,” Hyman added.

“Disappointing, but out of our control.”

McDavid said he enjoyed celebrating all the theme nights, “whether that’s Pride Night or Military Night or Indigenous Night, all the various nights we’ve had… I can’t speak for everybody else or the league or anything like that, but it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed.”

The Oilers’ captain was asked if this was an issue the players would consider “pushing back” on.

“I’ve expressed disappointment in not being able to wear the various jerseys or the tapes… whether that’s Pride Tape or pink tape or anything,” McDavid said.

“In terms of a league standpoint, is it something that I’d like to see put back into place one day? Certainly. But that’s not the way it is right now.”

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Pride nights, held annually for several years by National Hockey League teams to show support for the LGBTQ2 community, became part of a debate last season following several high-profile incidents.

A handful of players objected to participating in pregame warmups that included Pride-themed jerseys, citing their religious beliefs.

Click to play video: 'NHL teams will not wear theme night jerseys after players’ Pride refusals caused distractions'

NHL teams will not wear theme night jerseys after players’ Pride refusals caused distractions

The Stanley Cup first appeared at a Pride parade in 2010 when then-Blackhawks defenceman Brent Sopel brought it to the celebration in Chicago. A few years later, in 2013, the league partnered with the You Can Play Project. The NHL added team Pride ambassadors in 2016-17.

Rainbow Pride stick tape debuted with the Edmonton Oilers in 2016. Now all 32 teams hold a Pride night, though many do so without themed jerseys. The Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets call theirs “Hockey Is For Everyone” night.

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Pride nights, like other themed events, are planned and staged by individual teams, not the NHL.

Global News has reached out to the NHL for comment. This article will be updated when we receive a response.

Click to play video: 'Oilers pride tape'

Oilers pride tape

You Can Play’s Palumbo told Global News the NHL policy is a “disappointing and baffling” step backward.

“This is something that it just eradicates the trust, the work that has been built up.

“Pride Tape is gone — that’s something that we were a part of, right back in 2017, in getting it into the league. It’s something that really just takes us further steps back when we’re trying to build this trust with the community to show that you matter, that we see you, and the league has chosen to go a different route.”

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Pride Tape is such a simple way to show support, Palumbo said.

“It’s hugely important. The visibility of Pride Tape, of a Pride jersey, of generally a Pride night in an arena — that’s a very easy statement of support by players, by teams, to say that you matter. When we have people like a Connor McDavid or like a Morgan Rielly — like others that have been vocal and visible allies to the community — say why it matters to them, that goes a long way for those in the stands watching at home who may be feeling like they don’t belong.”

With files from Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press


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