Rangers in hot water for ditching their Pride Night warm-up jerseys

The New York Rangers are drawing criticism for reneging on plans to wear Pride-themed warm-up jerseys before their game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday.  (Getty Images)

The New York Rangers have come under fire from the hockey world after they changed plans and decided not to wear Pride Night-themed warmup jerseys before Friday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Rangers advertised that they would wear rainbow-themed jerseys and tape before Friday’s game. The team has worn similar designs at past Pride Night celebrations, including in 2022.

They also brought out these looks in 2021.

It’s worth noting that the Rangers celebrated their 2023 version of Pride Night in a number of ways. Broadway star Michael James Scott sang the national anthem, NYC Pride’s Andre Thomas attended the puck drop ceremony, and the iconic Madison Square Garden ceiling was lit up in rainbow colors. Some fans he even received themed fanny packs upon entering the arena for the game.

Those moments were understandably overshadowed by the decision to wear retro uniforms instead of these Pride Night-promoted uniforms. Following the Rangers’ win against the Vegas Golden Knights, the club released this canned statement.

“Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community and we are proud to draw attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night. In keeping with our organisation’s core values, we support everyone’s individual right to express respect their beliefs”.

Less than two weeks after Philadelphia Flyers defensive back Ivan Provorov refused to wear a Pride Night warm-up jersey, it’s only natural to insert the line “we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.”

Some are speculating whether the Rangers opted not to wear their Pride Night jerseys to cover up for one or more players who didn’t want to participate.

At present, there is no clear answer to these questions. Mollie Walker and Larry Brooks of the New York Post spoke to two anonymous Rangers who were unaware that the team would not be wearing Pride Night jerseys, indicating it may have been a decision made by someone else in the organization.

“Two players separately told me and Post colleague Larry Brooks that there were no team discussions about wearing the pride-themed jerseys and ribbon. They didn’t know why they weren’t wearing them. Brooks also reached out to Deputy commissioner and NHL chief legal officer, Bill Daly, to see if teams were advised not to proceed with their original Pride Night plans in the aftermath of Provorov’s refusal. Daly said no and that every club has the right to proceed as he sees fit”.

Some feel that this change of plans borders on false advertising.

One of the most heated criticisms focuses on another possible side effect: Could this have a negative impact on the charitable aspects of Rangers’ Pride Night? Would people pay less money for themed shirts if they are not worn during the match or even before the match? (The jerseys were to be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity.)

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski received a response from NYC Pride after learning the Rangers were not wearing Pride Night jerseys, which included the following:

“NYC Pride was honored to be a part of these celebrations, including last night at Madison Square Garden. NYC Pride was not notified in advance of our attendance at last night’s discus ceremonies that the Pride jerseys and rainbow ribbon would not have been worn as advertised. We understand and appreciate that this has been a huge disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond.”

The Rangers’ decision predictably drew considerable criticism from online hockey fans.

Indeed, many people both within and outside the LGBTQ+ community are disappointed with the way Rangers and Flyers have handled recent decisions. Time will tell if the NHL and its teams will learn some valuable lessons or continue to lead the way in what should be positive times and initiatives.

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