NHL: NHL: Flyers’ Ivan Provorov was ‘free to decide’ to boycott Pride Night

The NHL weighed in on Wednesday after Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov opted to boycott the team’s LGBTQ+ Pride Night pregame skate.

The league said in its statement to multiple media outlets that its players can choose which initiatives to support.

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“Hockey is for Everyone is the umbrella initiative under which the League encourages clubs to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets, and to work to achieve more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans,” the statement read. “Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with league counsel and support. Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”

The Flyers held Pride Night on Tuesday ahead of their home game against the Anaheim Ducks, with the players wearing warmup jerseys that featured their names and uniform numbers in rainbow colors and sticks wrapped in rainbow tape.

Provorov was absent from the warmup, though, and he later acknowledged that he refused to wear the rainbow-themed top for religious reasons.

Provorov, who is Russian Orthodox, said, “I respect everyone. I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

Flyers coach John Tortorella backed Provorov’s decision and said he didn’t contemplate scratching him from the game.

“He’s being true to himself and his religion. This has to do with his beliefs and his religion,” Tortorella said. “It’s one thing I respect about (Provorov), he’s always true to himself. That’s where we’re at with that.”

The Flyers issued a statement after news broke of Provorov opting out of the warmup: “The Philadelphia Flyers organization is committed to inclusivity and is proud to support the LGBTQ+ community. Many of our players are active in their support of local LGBTQ+ organizations, and we were proud to host our annual Pride Night again this year. The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community.”

The rainbow-themed jerseys and sticks will be auctioned off by Flyers Charities with the money earmarked to “grow the game of hockey in diverse communities.”

You Can Play Team, a social activism campaign that has partnered with the NHL since 2013, offered the following statement on Wednesday, per ESPN:

“Wearing Pride colors, or other displays in support of social justice, show respect for fans, staff and athletes who support a team’s mission to win. The focus on including everyone who can display the heart, talent and commitment to teamwork — regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, religion and other things that make us unique as athletes, fans and people. Religion and support for fans and teammates aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The Flyers have been among the first and most consistent teams in sports supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion. There is still work to be done to change hearts and minds and the You Can Play Team looks forward to continuing our efforts.”

Provorov has 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 45 games this season. He has spent all seven seasons of his career with the Flyers, recording 61 goals and 144 assists in 495 career games.

–Field Level Media

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