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Chicago Is Latest NHL Team to Scrap Pride Jerseys, Citing Security Concerns

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Chicago was scheduled on Sunday to become the latest NHL team to wear pregame Pride jerseys. Instead, they’ve become the latest team to say that they won’t be wearing them after all. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last night that the team’s management has decided to scrap the jerseys — not because because of anyone raising a religious objection, but due to security concerns regarding the team’s Russian players.

Here’s the key passage in the Sun-Times article:

[C]onversations with security officials about the uncertain implications of a new Russian law banning “gay propaganda” prompted the [team] to make an organizational decision to scrap the Pride jersey plans this year, per sources.

The homophobic law, enacted in December, makes it illegal for Russians to promote or “praise” LGBTQ relationships or suggest they are “normal,” CNN reported.

The [team] currently [has] at least three players on their NHL roster — Russian defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, Swiss forward Philipp Kurashev and Kazakh goaltender Anton Khudobin — who are of Russian heritage or have family in Russia.

The decision was made by the front office rather than by the players, per sources.

The team has worn the rainbow-striped pregame jerseys in past seasons (as seen at the top of this page) and will maintain the other elements of its Pride Night promotion on Sunday. It’s not clear, at least to me, if that will include rainbow stick tape for pregame activities.

This is the latest in the series of episodes involving NHL Pride jerseys over the past two months or so:

  • On Jan. 18, Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, who is Russian, refused to wear the team’s pregame Pride jersey, citing religious objections.
  • On Jan. 27, the Rangers unexpectedly did not wear their pregame Pride jerseys, despite running a promotional campaign that said the jerseys would be worn. The team, which has several Russian players on the roster, said the move was based on “everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs” but did not elaborate further.
  • On March 7, the Wild made a last-minute decision not to wear their pregame Pride jerseys. The move was initially described as an “organizational decision,” but The Athletic later reported that it was due to concerns over the team’s Russian players.
  • On March 18, Sharks goalie James Reimer skipped the team’s pregame skate because he didn’t want to wear the Pride jerseys, citing religious objections. Reimer is not Russian, but two of his teammates are — left wing Alexander Barabanov and defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov — and they both wore the rainbow jerseys.

What a mess. The best and most comprehensive coverage of this issue, by far, can be found in this deeply reported Athletic article. Highly recommended.


Counting Down to the MLB Preview

The MLB season begins one week from today, which means it’s almost time for the Uni Watch MLB Season Preview. I’ve been hard at work on it — the 25th annual edition! — and it is, as usual, a doozy, currently clocking in at 6,000 words (and I’m sure it’ll get larger, because there’s always a lot of late-breaking news right before Opening Day).

The MLB Preview will be published on my Substack next Tuesday, March 28. In order to get it in your in-box that morning, you’ll need to become a paying subscriber (this will also give you full access to my Substack/Bulletin archives), which I hope you’ll consider doing. If you want to help grow the Uni Watch comm-uni-ty, you might also consider giving a gift subscription to someone who you think would appreciate it, because I think the MLB Preview is an ideal way for people to see what we’re all about.

My thanks, as always, for your consideration and support.



Can of the Day

Oilzwell that ends well!

• • • • •

Our latest raffle winner is Justin Thompson, who’s won himself a one-year subscription to my Premium content on Substack plus a few magnets and stickers. Congrats to him, and thanks again to Kary Klismet for sponsoring this one. — Paul

Comments (66)

    “The MLB season begins one month from today.” One week, I’m sure you meant.

    I have dealt with the issue of hosting citizens of countries with oppressive domestic criminal laws at American forums before, and the Blackhawks approach of “make everyone obey the unjust foreign law inside the United States” is exactly the wrong approach. You accommodate the needs of the individuals based on their own perception of their risk and exposure. In this case, that would amount to either/or providing the Russian nationals with non-Pride jerseys and permitting them to opt to participate in a separate training session where no participants are wearing Pride gear. And then you put out a press release explaining that you, the team, are doing this to protect your people from potential persecution by a foreign dictatorship. You protect your people from both the foreign dictator and from potential negative judgment by your American audience. You don’t subject the non-Russians to the oppressive reach of Russian criminal law.

    An interesting perspective and solution (that I think I fully support), but I can see the different perspectives that could be offered about this approach – non-uniformity, segregation of players based on views, etc. And then how would that precedent translate into other initiatives (and apologies for being absurd, but “I don’t want to wear the Jackie Robinson jersey because XYZ”, or “in my home country, women can’t do XYZ, so I won’t be wearing Women’s History Month attire”.

    Absolutely the separate treatment thing is an issue. But as problematic as that is, especially to an American who appreciates our nation’s history with unequal treatment, the alternative is worse. The only way to have equal treatment of all participants is to apply the most repressive interpretation of the relevant foreign laws to all participants. That is, to enforce foreign oppression upon Americans on American soil. As the Blackhawks have done in this instance. So obviously the segregated individual accommodation is the better option. But it’s still a bad option. Which is why the public communication aspect of the accommodation strategy is necessary. One way you protect your people is by shielding them from persecution by their home government. Another way you protect your people is by shielding them from public approbation. Institutional communication must be clear and firm: We have done this to protect our people from unjust foreign oppression, and we will not permit a foreign tyrant to dictate how we, an American institution in the United States of America, conduct ourselves or treat our employees and fans.

    As to the Jackie Robinson Day thing, to the extent that anyone is OK with any athlete opting out of a Pride display, then they must also be OK with any athlete opting out of a racial-equality display. If we apply the catastrophically bad practice of the Blackhawks in this instance to the hypothetical of an athlete choosing for any reason not to wear a racial-equality-supporting uniform element, then the team approach would be to scrap Jackie Robinson Day uniforms or patches entirely for all team members. That’s a heckler’s veto. If we change the subject matter in controversy from equality of sexual identity to equality of race, we can see even more clearly how wrongheaded the Blackhawks are in this instance.

    Certainly, I’m okay with an athlete’s opting out of it. Make of it what you will, but that’s equally his prerogative.

    “The MLB season begins one month from today, which means it’s almost time for the Uni Watch MLB Season Preview.”

    – One week from today.

    It’s cool that the Russian government is canceling our pride events now.

    From the article:
    “In spite of the lack of special jerseys, the Hawks still have a wide variety of Pride-related programming scheduled for Sunday.”

    The MLB season starts in one week. The Mets season will be over in one month. ;)

    Don’t be so pessimistic, it is more likely the Mets will collapse in some epic fashion when it gets closer to crunch time.

    Exactly. Building up hope and then let us down yet again. But being a Mets fan is all about this. I would be totally disoriented if the team makes the World Series, let alone win it. A nervous breakdown, followed by very primitive joy. That would last another 40 years or so.

    “Pride” has now become the defining issue for liberal democracy, apparently. Yet, in the new multi-polar world, one in which U.S. influence continues to wane as Russia and China rise, people see things differently. Most Americans remain oblivious to this.

    I think most Americans are well aware that Russia is run by bigoted homophobes.

    Yeah, Apartheid South Africa shoulda just held out another generation and it would have been scot free in a wonderful multipolar world.

    Russia’s influence rising, really? Well, I guess they did influence a few countries to join NATO.

    I honestly don’t know worse, canceling pride nights because of homophobic players or because of the Russian government.

    But when the Russian government doesn’t want you to do something means that you probably should do it.

    That hasn’t happened, and hopefully won’t.
    I can not recall an NHL team or teams completely cancelling a Pride Night due to individual player(s) or foreign government objections. All that has been left off these programs is a measure of display which includes wearing special pregame jerseys; in most(?) cases, all the promoted event-specific optics remain intact albeit with a small number of non-participants.
    Not all NHL teams have Pride Nights(do they?)…those that don’t are no “worse” than teams which adjust the look of theirs but still host one, right?

    Ponder the plight of a Russian athlete playing in the U.S. They’re probably safe, their spouse and kids are safe… but they likely have a whole lot of friends and relatives in Russia whose lives would be in danger if they speak out. So if they seem to be tap dancing around an issue like pride uniforms, it may be more complex than you think.

    As much as I want American sports policy to be dictated by what could potentially happen to a Russian ‘s family in Omsk, I’d really love it if we gave a little more consideration to the actual victims of hate crimes in places like Oregon and Montana.

    I’m not tunned in enough with Russian authoritarianism to know if the families of these players are really at risk, And if they are for something like this, I’d wonder why said players wouldn’t have already moved said family out of the country. But either way this just sounds like an excuse not to have the night. Because if it were true, those specific players could just opt out, or even not skate in warmups.
    The more of these cases being brough to light, the more these pride nights that include rainbow adorned jerseys just seem like hallow gestures.
    I keep thinking back to the World Cup and how everyone bowed down to Qatar. Or how companies feature rainbow logos during pride month in countries where they won’t get any real blowback, but don’t use those logos in countries where it would be an issue.
    I feel awful for the LBGTQ community for essentially being used by various corporate actors, rainbow washing when it is convenient for them, and falling cowardly silent when it is not convenient. No doubt there are companies that are real advocates for the LGBTQ community, but the cynic in me says most of them are just trying to look good when they don’t have to worry about what it does to their bottom line.

    So true. It’s ridiculous to see all these companies patronize the LBGTQ communites. I’m searching hotels right now and it’s amazing how many claim to be LBTGQ-friendly. Really? You have to write that on the website? Is that implying that any hotel that doesn’t claim to be LTBGQ-friendly on their website isn’t naturally friendly to all?

    Yeah, it sucks when businesses advertise that they’re friendly to a group that has historically been discriminated against and, as evidenced by this news, continues to be.

    Russians are risking their own safety and their family’s safety back home in Russia wearing those things. Smart not to wear them.

    Members of the LGBTQ community are risking their own safety here in America every day simply by existing. Why are we more concerned about Russian families that may or may not be endangered by the warmups a player wears?

    It’s time to scrap the politcal agenda jerseys. In all sports. Period. Play the game and get the politics out of sports. Most sports fans are sick of it.

    It’s unfair to the athletes to ask them to endorse a political agenda that they may or may not believe in.

    Would you feel the same way if your favorite athlete was required to wear a jersey or a helmet bumper for example that said “Protect Unborn Children”? Or “All Lives Matter”? Or “End Black on Black Crime”?

    Think about it.

    1) “Agenda” is a word that people use when they want to put their thumb on the scale by making something to sound scary or evil. A better, more neutral term is “point of view” or just “position.”

    2) Let’s please not try to engage in mind-reading by making unsupported assertions like, “Most sports fans are sick of it.” Thanks.

    Exactly this. Or its opposite. To the extent that “equality of individuals before the law” is political, then everything is political. Every heritage night. Every Scouts day. Every church event at the ballpark. Playing the national anthem before a game. Flying the national flag over the stadium. Promoting military service or military veterans. Celebrating cops or any other bureaucrats employed by the government.

    To read a Pride celebration as “political” and then to seek to eliminate all “political” phenomena at a sporting event is to reduce the number of permissible promotional events to one: Jimmy Buffett Night. Which, as a Buffett fan, I’d learn to live with that, but I doubt it’s really what people intend when they start this “get politics out of my sports!” argument without thinking through their principles and definitions.

    “a political agenda that they may or may not believe in”

    I had no idea equality was a “political agenda”

    Hockey has a horrible history of homophobia. The You Can Play project is working hard to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals are welcome everywhere in hockey. I don’t see the “political agenda” here, unless that agenda is supporting homphobia.


    I’ll ask again…Would you feel the same way if your favorite athlete was required to wear a jersey or a helmet bumper that said “Protect Unborn Children”?

    Doug, you know I lave ya, but this is a terrible comparison. While abortion is a controversial topic, reasonable people can, in good faith, hold opposing views on whether it’s acceptable. (Let’s please not debate that here.)

    But there is no reasonable good-faith position opposing equal rights and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people — that’s just bigotry.

    I’m not saying I’m for (or against) the Pride jerseys. I’m just saying that you’re making a classic apples/oranges comparison that distorts the situation at hand.

    Paul, I agree that it may well be an apples-to-oranges comparison (as is the America flag comparison), but the point that I’m trying to make is that for whatever reason certain athletes don’t feel comfortable displaying support for certain social points-of-view. I’m trying to suggest an example in which commenters may be able to put themselves in a similar, albeit hypothetical, position in which they might be uncomfortable wearing a certain message on their jerseys. (There’s a parable about walking a mile in another’s shoes…)

    So, hypothetically… just as many people may feel uncomfortable wearing a “All Lives Matter” jersey, for whatever reason a small handful of athletes similarly feel uncomfortable wearing pride jerseys. And we can see how these players and teams have been ostracized for failing to do so.

    Opting not to wear such jerseys does not necessarily mean they’re opposing equal rights and inclusiveness, and certainly does not automatically mean they’re a bigot. As you yourself have suggested, we should “not try to engage in mind-reading”, in this case to decipher their motivation, whether their reasons are religious, or for the protection of their families back in their homelands. We’re not talking about John Rocker here.

    What if we had a Pride Night where those who wanted to wear the jerseys wore them, and those who chose not to didn’t, without it being the main focus of the media coverage? There was a time where free will in this country was celebrated, and opposing viewpoints were encouraged. We should fear the day when we reach the point where people are faced with a “wear this or you’re a bigot” ultimatum.

    By attacking this small number of players who have chosen not to participate, we’ve now created situations where entire teams have cancelled their plans for Pride Night jersey promotions. Is that really the end result we desired?

    I’m all in favor of hypothetical examples and thought experiments. But for such exercises to make sense and work in good faith, they have to be apples:apples, not apples:oranges. That’s all. Creating a false equivalence is just another way of putting one’s thumb on the scale.

    What if we had a Pride Night where those who wanted to wear the jerseys wore them, and those who chose not to didn’t, without it being the main focus of the media coverage?

    For now, at least, players declining to participate, and teams changing their minds about whether to go forward with the jerseys, is pretty much the textbook definition of uni-related news. So I’ll continue to report it.

    I absolutely agree that as this is currently in the news it’s a story that Uni-Watch must cover. I don’t fault UW for the coverage on this topic at all.

    With all respect, Paul, that’s simply false, I agree with you that the word “agenda” smuggles in several unexamined assumptions, but so do the words “equal rights” and “inclusiveness” in this context.

    Regarding the MLB preview; the Twins had their “rebrand” but watching spring training games the belt situation is all over the place. Maybe Paul can confirm what the official style guide indicates. The simple way it should be is red belts with the home whites and navy blue belts with the away uniforms and the Twin Cities alternate. Alas I’m seeing some navy at home and red on the road.
    Probably been addressed on Uni Watch but are belts considered part of the official uniform? The sock situation is past the point of trying to reclaim consistency but let’s at least get all the Twins to wear the same color belt.

    Belts are like shoes, right? Players are free to wear whatever *brand* they want (likely under contract)? Unlike socks, which are, at least in theory, team-issued (or at least team-approved)?

    Shoe rules were relaxeed in 2018 but there are still guidelines-
    “Players may wear shoes displaying any of the following colors, in any proportion: (i) black, white, and gray; (ii) any colors displayed on the Player’s uniform (and certain variations thereof); and (iii) and additional colors designated by the Player’s Club.”

    I guess I’ll have to prepare myself for the Twins with mismatched belts. In the case of red and navy blue the colors are so “opposite” it just stands out so obviously.

    “The Aristocrat of Motor Oils” is one heck of a slogan. Really enjoying the COTD feature.

    I’ll just say this – my Russian colleagues are much more open with me when they’re visiting here than in e-mail.

    What exactly is gained by North American businesses kowtowing to evil dictatorships in Russia and China? Putin and his pals would have loved my old high school where “out” homosexuals were thrown in the twin lakes during Senior Week. There was an incentive to stay closeted. But it is difficult to look in the mirror when you enable bigotry and bullying.

    Back in the day, at least in youth baseball and football, you wore your game uniform for warmup.

    As Merriam Webster defines it, Uniform, in this case, means “dress of a distinctive design or fashion worn by members of a particular group and serving as a means of identification”. As the pregame warmup uniforms appear to be a decision of the team, and not the NHL, it seems that that the ownership should discuss with the players how they want to collectively identify BEFORE they make big announcements of uniforms for nights like this.

    An interesting bit of irony to see a uniform/team identity that a number of folks don’t like due to its use of Native American imagery, suddenly seems to in some way become OK when you rainbow color the numbers.

    An interesting bit of irony to see a uniform/team identity that a number of folks don’t like due to its use of Native American imagery, suddenly seems to in some way become OK when you rainbow color the numbers.

    Actually, I haven’t seen anyone suddenly say the team’s imagery is OK, so I fail to see the irony. Personally, for today’s post I stuck to my usual policy of not using the team’s name, and I found a rear-view photo of the team’s previous Pride jersey so I wouldn’t have to showcase their front crest.

    And also note I didn’t say the name we can’t say.

    Here’s where I see irony (maybe coincidence? satire? humor?).
    -One view sees the uniform as “bad” because of Native American imagery but good because of pride colors on the numbers.
    -Another view sees the uniform as “bad” because of the pride colors, but good because they like the tradition of the jersey.
    -Another view sees the uniform as “bad” because of both the pride colors and the Native American imagery
    -And yet another view doesn’t really care.

    And also note I didn’t say the name we can’t say.

    Actually, I never said you can’t say the team name.

    As for the rest: Yes, life is complicated and different people hold differing views. Indeed.

    Apropos to today’s topic – the only out gay player in the WHL is Luke Prokop, a Nashville Predators prospect who plays for Seattle. The team didn’t do a pride day this year so the fans did one of their own and his teammates stepped up to support him


    A bunch of kids in Seattle showed more courage than the entire NHL did this week.

    When somebody wears a pride jersey, are they saying they support that lifestyle or merely that they accept it? That’s a very important distinction that very few people seem to be making.

    As I’ve said countless times before, being gay is not a “lifestyle.” Let’s please try to avoid such patronizing language. Thanks!

    I mean no disrespect by this comment becuase while I agree that while being gay isn’t a lifestyle, today’s materialistic driven, content driven society has made gay a lifestyle…not being gay, but gay/pride and everything surrounding it. When stores such as Target have entire sections of pride clothing for people to buy and wear, that makes it a lifestyle. You’re purchasing clothing to wear as fashion. Fashion is lifestyle. Whenever a team releases a pride jersey, the comments section is loaded with where can I buy this, I need this etc. Uniforms, or at least jerseys, are lifestyle apparel. The minute you attach a dollar sign next to something, it becomes part of lifestyle.

    And while being gay isn’t a lifestyle, there’s certainly a lifestyle that is influenced and lived by parts of that demographic. I speak to this as the nephew of a gay uncle who I love dearly. He and his partner travel to festivals and parades year round. A lot of the parades and festivals they go to are very, very heavily sexual and borderline inappropriate. Now, I’d imagine that lifestyle isn’t lived by the majority of the gay community but it’s the one that is represented and showcased on social media quite a bit. I think when people see that behavior it can give them a very negative attitude towards a certain group.

    When someone wears a pride jersey, they’re saying they support equality. They’re saying they acknowledge that LGBTQ individuals are human beings with rights. They’re saying people should be treated with dignity regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression. They’re saying they care as much about the safety of a trans person in Montana as they do about the families of Russian players in Chicago.

    Is any part of this objectionable?

    Judy, no part of your statement is objectionable. That’s what the message means to you and to me and to most people, but that may not be the way it’s interpreted by everyone.

    And not wearing the jersey does not mean they believe that LGBTQ individuals are not human beings with rights, nor does it imply that they believe that LGBTQ individuals should not be treated with dignity.

    Fair point. But a hockey team wearing a rainbow jersey during warmups hardly moves the needle on this issue. In fact, canceling it got more attention. There are stronger, better, more important things folks can do to promote a cause than wearing a jersey for 30 minutes during practice.

    There are stronger, better, more important things folks can do to promote a cause than wearing a jersey for 30 minutes during practice.

    Nobody ever claimed otherwise. Just because something doesn’t “move the needle” in a seismic way doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant or worthless. Aspirin doesn’t cure cancer, but it’s good for a headache; saving a dollar or two on a bargain-priced item won’t make you rich, but it’s better than paying full price; and so on.

    This doesn’t mean I’m for (or against) the Pride jerseys. I’m just saying that the standard you’re using — the standard of whether wearing a jersey is “the most important thing” to promote a cause — isn’t a particularly good one.

    The bottom line is the dollar. If people stop buying tickets and merch or even threaten to stop buying tickets and merch because of a theme night proposed by the team or the league it will be cancelled. Any theme night with any excuse, be it the safety of so and so, the objections of players due to so and so, theme night merch is not available because of so and so. This is a business. We attach emotions to it because pro sports is basically a business peddling emotions: you pay, we provide emotions, a sense of belonging, an escape of dreary everyday life by projecting yourself on a team. If customers are unhappy about something, the business will alter its strategy. I see every comment from a pro team on promoting any cause (and cancelling theme nights connected to this cause) in this harsh, blinding light.

    Paul, is there any sort of NHL rule that would prevent the wearing of “special” pregame jerseys/uniforms being optional? Or is it a team decision to make them “everyone or no one”? If this really is about personal beliefs, then it seems like in pregame, players should be able to express those beliefs (or not) by wearing (or not wearing) a jersey as the choose? Or am I missing something here?

    Up to the team. But had never been an issue until this year, so there was no reason for a team to think it would need to be optional.

    Of course, once you make Pride jerseys optional, then you have to do the same with camo, stars/stripes, and all the rest.

    My day will be made when a player refuses to wear a “patriotic” uniform because it glorifies war and nationalism.

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