The Blackhawks will not be wearing Pride Night warmup jerseys on Sunday against the Canucks, becoming the third NHL team to make such a decision.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday that the organization chose to not wear the rainbow-themed jerseys ahead of the game due to safety concerns over the team’s Russian players. Chicago currently has three players either from Russia or with Russian heritage: defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, forward Philipp Kurashev and goaltender Anton Khudobin.
This decision comes after Russia passed a law in December outlawing “gay propaganda.” The law makes it illegal for citizens to “praise” or “promote” LGBTQ relationships in public, which also includes doing so on social media, per CNN. People also aren’t allowed to suggest that LGBTQ relationships are “normal.”
The organization reportedly clarified to the Sun-Times that it was the front office’s choice not to wear the pride-themed jerseys ahead of the game, not the players’ choice.
“The Chicago Blackhawks organization is proud to continue its annual Pride Night celebration, an evening—alongside year-round efforts—fueled by partnership and LGBTQIA+ community engagement,” the Blackhawks said, via a statement to the Sun-Times. “Together, our activities will focus on fostering conversation and more equitable spaces in our pursuit to make hockey more inclusive. We do not condone anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, and we stand firmly with the community. While we know game-day celebrations like these are an important way we can use our platform to bring visibility, it is the work we do together 365 days a year that can create true impact in ensuring all of our colleagues, fans and communities feel welcomed and safe within our sport.”
Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy spoke with The Athletic a few weeks ago about the team’s Pride Night. He expected that the team would fully support wearing the jerseys.
“I don’t think we have anyone, that I know of, that wouldn’t support that,” Murphy said in an interview with The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. “I think it was surprising to see that stuff came up this year. We’ve been doing it for so many years, so it’s not like it’s a new subject.”
Even though the Blackhawks won’t be wearing pride-themed jerseys during warmups, the team will highlight various LGBTQ+ groups during intermissions Sunday, including the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, DJ Zel and the Chicago Gay Hockey Association.
The Blackhawks aren’t the first team to forgo Pride Night warmup jerseys. The Rangers, Islanders and Wild all have made headlines this season for choosing not to wear their Pride Night jerseys, citing similar reasons.
Pride Night jerseys have been a hot-button topic across the league. Some individual players have chosen to opt out of wearing such jerseys. Sharks goaltender James Reimer and Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov both refused to wear their teams’ Pride Night warmup jerseys, each citing religious beliefs.