The NHL thought the modest pushback it received from a smattering of players last season over wearing rainbow warmup sweaters was bad enough to warrant banning all Pride jerseys and accessories.
But as it turns out, the league was completely wrong. The blowback it received over its reactionary edict was overwhelming, with players, fans and media all standing against the ridiculous policy.
On Tuesday, the NHL announced it was reversing the Pride tape ban, providing LGBTQ+ hockey fans with a well earned victory.
In this case, the backlash worked in our favor. Let that be a lesson to other sports leagues that fail to support gay and queer fans in the wake of criticism.
LGBTQ+ folx aren’t going to just sit back and take it.
There were a number of defiant acts that likely led to the league rescinding the ban and saving itself further embarrassment. The biggest came over the weekend, when Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott wrapped his stick in rainbow colors, anyway, giving the NHL a giant “eff you” in the process.
A long-standing ally, Dermott said the league’s policy took an emotional toll on him.
“I’d be lying if I said I haven’t shed tears about this on multiple occasions,” he said. “So yeah, it’s something I’m definitely very passionate about.”
The seven-year veteran also received an assist from his team. The Coyotes moved up their Pride Night to Oct. 27, putting even more pressure on the league.
When the ban was lifted, Dermott didn’t hide his ebullience.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “You really become proud for who you’re working for when people are able to second-guess their choices and just kind of take a step back and see who they’re affecting and how they’re affecting (them). To be able to have them really take a step in the right direction here in my eyes is unbelievable. It really makes me proud of the spot that I’m working in.”
While some of the league’s biggest stars spoke out against the rule, including Edmonton Oilers defenseman Connor McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers assistant captain Scott Laughton, Dermott matched his words with action.
Even more impressively, Dermott is playing on a one-year contract, meaning his spot in the NHL is far from guaranteed. He risked his job to make a statement.
That’s pretty damn cool.
Just as powerfully, Dermott shows that religion and inclusion can go hand-in-hand. He has a giant cross tattooed on his stomach.
They really tell on themselves when they argue that the Christian cross is the political opposite of supporting gay people.
— Arantxa Sanchez Sicario (@MrButterChicken) October 24, 2023
this. see also vitek vanecek – who wore pride tape and a pride jersey yet *gasp* also wears a cross (it’s almost as if these two things can coexist 😱) pic.twitter.com/KfKUeZV8eL
— kya ッ (@piercethekya) October 24, 2023
Once Dermott went against the league, it was likely that other players would follow. The president of the San Jose Sharks, for example, indicated his team ordered Pride tape before the policy was lifted.
Corporate sponsors played a role, too. Scotiabank, one of the largest financial institutions in Canada, announced it was giving away 5,000 roles of Pride tape to those who “want to show their support for Pride and making hockey more inclusive.”
Less than 24 hours later, the NHL backtracked…
This whole episode was the definition of an unforced error, and made the NHL look completely foolish. May commissioner Gary Bettman remember this embarrassment the next time he thinks about betraying the league’s LGBTQ+ fanbase.