Yet another NHL team had to have an ado about their Pride Night and warmup jerseys this past weekend. This time it was the San Jose Sharks and goalie James Reimer. It was the same bullshit we’ve heard from others, though the Sharks put him on his own island to explain himself, which is half the battle, as they went ahead with the rest of their plans for Pride Night and every other player wore the jerseys. They still allowed Reimer to make his own statement, which made the night more about him than the gestures the Sharks organization was making. And they still let him off the hook with the tame and predictable, “Respecting everyone’s beliefs” cop-out that other teams have reached for. That’s only true when someone’s beliefs are worth respecting, when bigotry never is.
But it’s probably best to just let an openly gay hockey player say it best, as Luke Prokop, a player in the Predators system, did last night:
What needs to be amplified are hockey’s attempts, however ham-handed and halfway they may be, to try to be welcoming. Merely sending Reimer home without comment while the Sharks released a statement that his views do not reflect the organization’s would have done that. Players like Reimer don’t deserve a platform of any kind. That at least would put the focus where it needs to be.
But hockey’s fetish of putting the team over all would probably never allow for that, which is why some teams have eschewed wearing Pride jerseys at all, so as to cover for teammates who do not want to wear them (and it should be stated that some Russian players have declined fearing reprisal for them or their families back home in Russia). Even if Reimer was alone, he still got to try to save enough face to not feel ostracized by his team. Which is what he deserved.