The NHL released a statement Wednesday backing Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov over his decision to skip out on Tuesday night’s pregame warmups where players wore Pride-them jerseys, citing his religious beliefs.
The 26-year-old veteran, who is Russian Orthodox, explained to the media following the game that he elected not to participate in Tuesday’s warmups in order to “stay true” to himself and his religion.
“I respect everybody and I respect everybody’s choices,” he said in the locker room. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Before Tuesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, players wore Pride-themed jerseys and rainbow Pride tape on their hockey sticks in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
After facing fierce backlash online, the NHL issued a statement seemingly backing Provorov’s decision, while adding that it will “continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”
“Hockey is for Everyone is the umbrella initiative under which the League encourages Clubs to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets, and to work to achieve more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans,” the statement read.
“Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with League counsel and support. Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”
The Flyers issued a separate statement following the game reiterating its stance on inclusivity.
“The Philadelphia Flyers organization is committed to inclusivity and is proud to support the LGBTQ+ community. Many of our players are active in their support of local LGBTQ+ organizations, and we were proud to host our annual Pride Night again this year. The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community.”
According to the team website, the jerseys and sticks used during warmups are set to be auctioned off with “proceeds going to Flyers Charities and their efforts to grow the game of hockey in diverse communities.”
Head coach John Tortorella said after the game that he did not consider benching Provorov.