National Hate League - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Back in March when a handful of hockey players said they would not be wearing Pride-themed jerseys, there was a fair bit of debate. As a result, the National Hockey League (NHL) brought in a wholesale ban on any themed jerseys, including Pride jerseys.
At the time, players cited their allegiance to a higher power (God for Christians who use religion as a vehicle to hate people, Vladimir Putin for Russians who think that trash bag is awesome) and freedom of speech as reasons to not wear the jerseys. Now, however, players who want to have the freedom to adorn their sticks with Pride-themed tape are out of luck.
The NHL has informed its 32 teams that Pride tape is not to be used on players’ sticks.
In March, when I (on behalf of our editorial board) wrote to denounce former Maple Leaf goaltender James Reimer for pulling the Jesus card as a way of telling a certain kind of person to hit the bricks, I received letters saying that Reimer was free to express his belief on the matter and that he did so with humility and respect. This religion-based bigotry came, as it often does, with a smile, along with an assurance that the writer most certainly stood by the letter, but asked it not be printed.
The point was made that no player should have to celebrate something they themselves didn’t believe in. Now, players who do believe in something aren’t allowed to celebrate it either - on the strict orders from the league.
No doubt we’ll see more letters about how, somehow, this is the right thing to do. Just let them play hockey - keep politics out of it.
Reimer should be happy too. Now playing for the Detroit Red Wings, he won’t have to stare at those awful, hurtful rainbow-taped sticks scoring three-and-a-half goals per game on him. And while this may satisfy a few members of North Huron Council, there has been backlash among people with solid footing in reality and no hate in their hearts. Many organizations have decried the move and some players have said that they’ll do as they please.
Professional sports leagues are among the final frontiers for inclusion when it comes to the LGBTQ community. Sports have often been described as the ultimate meritocracy - an idea that echoes in the famous “You Can Play” initiative, which launched back in 2012. If you can play, so it goes, you can play. However, gay players in men’s professional sports are almost non-existent. Publicly, anyway.
Four per cent of Canadians identify as being a member of the LGBTQ community (Statistics Canada). There should be dozens of gay players in professional hockey, baseball, basketball and football leagues. Not so much.
The backlash from closed-minded sports fans, sponsors, teammates, coaches and owners is enough to keep players from living their life to its full extent and the NHL has finally had the courage to pull the curtain back and show the world just how homophobic it is.
Critics of inclusionary practices have often said that the world, especially North America, is inclusive. Everyone has the same rights, they say, so why make a big show of it?
That couldn’t be further from the truth. The minds of many are closing off to the world around them. In Canada, crime against the LGBTQ community was up 64 per cent in 2021. Crimes based on religion (Muslim and Jewish faiths were singled out by Statistics Canada) were up 67 per cent. All hate crime is up 21 per cent. Don’t spew this garbage any longer. People do not feel welcome and moves like this are a huge part of the problem. Just let them play hockey? That’s all people want to do. But, bigots are standing in their way.