Zach Sullivan, a professional ice hockey player for Manchester Storm, has voiced his strong criticism against NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s recent decision to ban the use of Pride tape in the league. This move by the NHL has ignited controversy, as it restricts players from displaying rainbow-colored tape on their sticks during games, warm-ups, and practices, effectively preventing them from openly showing support for the LGBTQ+ community while on the ice.
The ban, outlined in a memo sent to all NHL teams, even extends to Pride Nights, a move that Sullivan described as “spineless.” In an interview with The Mirror, Sullivan emphasized the significance of the tape, stating, “It’s for the fans, it’s for that teammate that might be struggling. So I was disappointed but not surprised, which is probably more damning.” He further lamented that this decision represents a step backward at a time when progress toward inclusivity was finally gaining ground.
Sullivan, who came out as bisexual in January 2020, applauded NHL players who have openly criticized the ban but expressed disappointment with the NHL Players’ Association, which has remained silent on the issue. This controversy follows closely on the heels of Bettman’s announcement that teams would no longer be permitted to wear Pride jerseys during warm-up sessions this season, citing them as a “distraction.” Sullivan characterized Bettman’s decision as “ill-informed, ridiculous, pretty spineless,” highlighting concerns about the commissioner’s track record on such matters.
In a notable act of defiance against the Pride tape ban, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott became the first player to openly challenge the policy during the club’s 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. He played with a stick wrapped in rainbow tape. An NHL spokesperson informed The Athletic that they will be “reviewing” Dermott’s actions, further fueling the debate surrounding this contentious issue.
This controversy underscores the ongoing debate within the NHL and the broader sports community about the intersection of inclusivity and the visibility of LGBTQ+ support within the world of professional sports. The ban on Pride tape has drawn widespread attention and condemnation from players and fans alike, highlighting the importance of ongoing discussions regarding LGBTQ+ rights and representation in the world of ice hockey. The NHL faces increasing pressure to reconsider its decision as the conversation around LGBTQ+ inclusivity continues to gain momentum.