Before Dylan Mulvaney’s six-pack lit a corporate bonfire, there were already signs the cultural tide was turning. In January, a single defenseman’s refusal to wear the NHL’s Pride jersey shook the sports establishment to its very core. He wasn’t trying to start a revolution. He was just a man following his convictions. But six months later, Ivan Provorov’s courage hasn’t just changed hockey — it’s changed the world.
“I respect everybody, and I respect everybody’s choices,” the Russian told reporters at the time. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.” They were just two sentences, but they challenged a status quo that had been as thick as cement in professional hockey.
Thursday, after months of player and team revolts, the NHL finally righted its 13-year wrong of making players props for Pride. After hinting at the need to “reevaluate” the practice in the offseason, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman finally said the league will no longer co-opt athletes for a radical message many reject.
After four months of trying to contain his players’ revolt, Bettman says rainbow-themed jerseys will no longer be worn. “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,” he told SportsNet at Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting.
For fans, who’ve had to endure the sight of their favorite players draped in the colors of child mutilation and sexual extremism, the league’s reversal is more proof of the cultural earthquake shaking America’s woke foundation. This is a victory for moral courage. It’s a victory for free speech and real tolerance. But also, it’s a victory for corporate awareness. For once, the NHL listened to someone other than the bullies.
When SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman pushed back that Bettman shouldn’t have made this decision now, in the middle of Pride Month, the commissioner said, “Those are 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 [will opt out]. 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.
If players want to “model” Pride jerseys on their own time, fine, Bettman said. But “it’s really just a question of what’s on the ice,” he emphasized. And what’s on the ice is going to be respect for players’ diverse views. Finally.
Major League Baseball arrived at that decision before hockey, quietly telling teams as far back as February that they wouldn’t be opening themselves up to the NHL’s nightmare. In the directive, which MLB’s front office kept under wraps until this month, they quashed all player Pride gear. And watching Bettman painfully navigate the media circus of six teams’ boycotts (New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, and Toronto Maple Leafs) was a big reason why.
“We have told teams, in terms of actual uniforms, hats, bases, that we don’t think putting logos on them is a good idea just because of the desire to protect players,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes. At the end of the day, he said, we should not be “putting them in a position of doing something that may make them uncomfortable because of their personal views.”
In a society where evil is constantly on the march, these moments of taking ground back are incredibly significant. A year ago, no one imagined that the entire Pride movement would be upended. And yet, that’s what we’re seeing — not just across sports, but across major industries and corporations. Why? Because enough people had the guts to stand up and say, “Enough.”
“This situation shows that progress can be made if people are kind and make reasonable arguments,” Family Research Council’s Joseph Backholm told The Washington Stand. “There are still a lot of Americans who believe diversity includes the freedom to have different beliefs. It seems the NHL was open-minded enough to listen to players who told them they did not want to wear political and religious symbols they disagreed with.”
“It takes humility and courage to admit your mistakes,” he insisted, “and the NHL should be applauded for doing so. Hopefully, this will be a cultural turning point back toward real diversity — not the kind of diversity the sexual revolution is looking for where everyone thinks the same things.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.
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