The New York Rangers are under fire from the hockey world after changing plans and refraining from wearing Pride Night warm-up jerseys for Friday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Rangers advertised that they had put on rainbow-themed jerseys and tape for Friday’s game. The team wore similar designs at previous Pride Night celebrations, including in 2022.
They also trotted out these looks in 2021.
It’s worth noting that the Rangers celebrated their 2023 version of Pride Night in a variety of ways. Broadway star Michael James Scott sang the national anthem, NYC Pride’s Andre Thomas participated in the ceremonial puckdrop, and Madison Square Garden’s iconic ceiling was lit up in rainbow colors. Some fans even received themed fanny packs upon entering the arena for the game.
Those moments were understandably overshadowed by the decision to wear retro uniforms instead of these promoted Pride Night uniforms. Following the Rangers’ win against the Vegas Golden Knights, the club released this canned statement.
“Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community and we are proud to highlight key local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night. In line with our organization’s core values, we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs .”
Less than two weeks after Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to wear a Pride Night warm-up jersey, it’s common to take issue with the wording, “we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.”
Some speculate if the Rangers decided not to wear Pride Night jerseys to cover up a player or several players who did not want to participate.
There is currently no clear answer to these kinds of questions. The New York Post’s Mollie Walker and Larry Brooks spoke to two anonymous Rangers who were unaware that the team would not be wearing Pride Night jerseys, indicating it may have been a decision made by someone else in the organization.
“Two players separately told Post colleague Larry Brooks and me that there were no team discussions about wearing the pride-themed jerseys and tape. They didn’t know why they weren’t wearing them. Brooks also contacted the Deputy Commissioner and Chief of the NHL legal officer, Bill Daly, to see if teams had been advised not to proceed with their original Pride Night plans in the wake of Provorov’s refusal Daly said no and that each club has the right to continue to go at your own discretion.”
Some believe this change of plans borders on false advertising.
One of the sharpest criticisms focuses on another possible side effect: Could this negatively impact the charity aspects of Rangers’ Pride Night? Would people pay less money for themed jerseys if they weren’t worn through the game or even worn before the game? (The jerseys would be auctioned and the proceeds would go to charity.)
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski received a response from NYC Pride upon learning that the Rangers were not wearing the Pride Night jerseys, which included the following:
“NYC Pride is honored to participate in these celebrations, including last night at Madison Square Garden. NYC Pride was not made aware of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puckdrop that Pride jerseys and rainbow tape would not have been worn as advertised. We understand and appreciate that this has been a great disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond.”
The Rangers’ decision drew predictable criticism from online hockey fans.
Indeed, many people, both inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community, are disappointed with the way the Rangers and Flyers have handled recent decisions. Time will tell if the NHL and its teams will learn valuable lessons, or continue to push their way through what should be positive moments and initiatives.
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