The National Hockey League (NHL) has reportedly taken a controversial stance on LGBTQ+ support by implementing a league-wide ban on the use of Pride Tape.
A Rainbow Tape Ban
This tape, decorated with rainbow colors, symbolized solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and was often wrapped around hockey sticks during games and warm-up sessions.
However, the NHL’s recent policy change ensures this will not be the case during the current season.
The ban, as confirmed by an NHL spokesperson in a statement to LGBTQ+ sports blog OutSports, prohibits players from using Pride Tape not only during games but also during warm-ups and practices.
The Commissioner’s Controversial Call
This move comes on the heels of a decision made a few months ago when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that teams would no longer be allowed to wear Pride jerseys during warm-up sessions this season.
He justified this decision by deeming such jerseys a ” distraction.”
However, Bettman did clarify that teams could still organize specialty nights, including Black History Night, Hockey Fights Cancer Night, and Pride Night, and create and sell merchandise to support related charities.
Players were also permitted to model these jerseys as part of these events.
The 2022-2023 hockey season saw each NHL team host a Pride Night or a Hockey Is For Everyone Night, events aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion.
However, seven players chose not to participate in pregame warm-ups, during which their teammates wore Pride jerseys.
This reluctance highlighted the polarizing nature of the issue, as the jerseys had an impact on every player’s participation in specific training sessions.
What has particularly puzzled NHL fans and LGBTQ+ advocates is the decision to ban the use of Pride Tape on hockey sticks.
Unlike the jerseys, the application of this tape has always been a matter of individual choice for players.
Backlash Over Memo
The NHL faced criticism earlier this month when a memo sent to all 32 teams raised concerns about players being forced to demonstrate personal support for specific initiatives, including those related to LGBTQ+ rights.
The initial memo contained a clause stating, “Players shall not be put in the position of having to demonstrate (or where they may be appearing to demonstrate) personal support for any Special Initiatives,” especially when they are in close proximity to groups or individuals associated with such causes.
This memo triggered a significant backlash from NHL fans and led to confusion among players and coaches.
Fans Express Discontent
In response to the outcry, the NHL issued a clarification, asserting that players should be encouraged to express themselves off the ice.
They emphasized that players are free to wear whatever they choose as long as it aligns with their team’s dress code guidelines.
NHL fans took to Twitter to express their views on this new ruling, with one user stating, “Good grief. It’s a hockey game, not some kind of rally. No symbols of any kind should be on frigging hockey sticks.”
Sports writer Alex Kirshner wrote, “This is such a disgrace on the part of both the NHL and the players union.”
Let Individuals Decide!
Meanwhile, Western Standard columnist Cory Morgan posted, “Forcing all NHL players to wear pride symbols caused an uproar. Banning all NHL players from wearing pride symbols has caused an uproar. I am going to offer a crazy solution. Has anybody ever considered letting individual players choose for themselves?”
The NHL’s recent actions raise questions about the league’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, especially with the banning of Pride Tape and the restrictions on wearing Pride jerseys.
As the debate over these decisions continues, it remains to be seen how the NHL will navigate the delicate balance between athletes’ personal expression and league-wide policies.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Vladimir Sukhachev