San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer has refused to wear the team’s Pride jersey during warm-ups ahead of their game against the New York Islanders on Saturday, citing his Christian beliefs as the reason. Reimer’s decision comes amid a growing debate in the NHL about the use of Pride-themed initiatives, with some players and teams choosing not to participate.
Reimer’s decision follows a similar one made by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov in January, as well as the decisions by the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild to not wear Pride jerseys during their Pride nights in the same month. The Sharks, however, had specially-designed nameplates put on locker stalls, some players will use Pride Tape on their sticks, and there will be Pride-themed corporate partner boards around the rink as part of their Pride Night.
While Reimer expressed that he has “always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect,” he said in a statement that he is “choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life.” Despite this, Reimer also added that he believes that all members of the LGBTQ+ community should be welcomed in hockey.
The Sharks issued a statement in response to Reimer’s decision, saying that they are “proud to host Pride Night” and that it reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness. However, they also expressed support for Reimer’s decision, stating that they acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic.
The NHL has made efforts to support the LGBTQ+ community through initiatives such as You Can Play, an organization dedicated to promoting inclusivity and respect for all athletes. While some players and teams have chosen not to participate in Pride-themed initiatives, others have been vocal in their support, such as Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie, who recently spoke out in support of the transgender community.
As the debate surrounding Pride-themed initiatives in sports continues, it remains to be seen how teams and players will navigate their personal beliefs and their commitment to inclusivity and respect for all.