The NHL and several of its teams and players caught both flak and praise in response to not wearing LGBTQ-themed jerseys during warm-ups on their respective Pride Nights.
In order to avoid any “distraction,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says themed jerseys will no longer be worn on the ice.
“I suggested that it would be appropriate for clubs not to change their jerseys in warm-ups because it’s become a distraction and taking away from the fact that all of our clubs in some form or another host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we’d rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman told SportsNet at the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Thursday.
The announcement came in the midst of Pride Month while the league has been criticized for not making the LGBTQ community welcome at its games, which Bettman called “legitimate concerns.”
“But in the final analysis, all of the efforts and emphasis on the importance of these various courses have been undermined by the distraction in terms of which teams, which players, this way we’re keeping the focus on the game and on these specialty nights, we’re going to be focused on the cause,” he said.
Pride Nights, as well as other heritage celebrations, will stay, Bettman said.
“All of those nights will continue. … The only difference will be is we’re not going to change jerseys for warm-ups because that’s just become more of a distraction from, really, the essence of what the purpose of these nights are,” he said.
Bettman even said that themed jerseys will be sold and designed and that players could even “model them” if they choose.
“It’s really just a question of what’s on the ice,” Bettman said.