Welcome to the first installment of Defector's Pride Night Homophobe Tracker.
Professional sports team Pride Nights are good for a few things: They signal inclusivity for the queer community, often raise money for LGBTQ+ organizations, result in some fun rainbow team merch, and, perhaps most usefully, function as a handy bigot-revealer. On Saturday night, San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer became the latest professional athlete to score two thumbs up on the "Am I A Homophobe?" litmus test when he refused to wear the Sharks' Pride Night warm-up jerseys.
Reimer, parroting the by-now-rote logic of his fellow religious athletes, including the Philadelphia Flyers' Ivan Provorov and Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jason Adam, who also refused to participate in Pride Nights, said he loves everyone but can't endorse something that goes against the Bible. "The way I personally and the people close to me in my life interpret the Bible is you love [LGBTQ+ people], but you can’t support the activity or lifestyle," he said. I'm not sure what Reimer thinks it means to love someone, but supporting and affirming who they are seems like a pretty basic first step.
The NHL's Pride Nights have been something of a mess all season. In addition to individual players refusing to participate, teams have struggled to follow through on their Pride Night programming. In January, the New York Rangers planned to wear Pride Night jerseys during their warm-ups, but then quietly backed out while citing "individuals' right to respectfully express their beliefs.” The Minnesota Wild reneged on plans to wear Pride Night jerseys earlier this year, citing concerns about their Russian players potentially facing consequences given an anti-gay law Russia passed in December that makes it illegal to spread "propaganda" about "nontraditional sexual relations." However, as The Athletic noted in its recent story about teams backing our of scheduled Pride Nights, Russian player Evgeni Malkin wore a Pride jersey for the Pittsburgh Penguins' Pride Night just a week after the new law was signed. Other teams simply won't commit to wearing Pride jerseys, and opt to let players wrap rainbow tape on their skates and sticks.
As the NHL moves ahead with its "Hockey Is For Everyone" initiative, there will be more Pride Nights and more players who use the opportunity to hijack the conversation to say fake-deep things about Jesus. Nothing they say should be of any interest, but the fact that they're saying it is worth noting, if only to gain a better understanding of where the bigots are.