Pride jerseys should be worn proudly or not at all

Image by: Katharine Sung

The choice to wear a pride jersey should be up to the players. 

The NHL isn’t renowned for its LGBTQ+ solidarity, but the organization has made news recently as the Chicago Blackhawks decided none of its players will wear pride warmup jerseys. There’s more to this decision than meets the eye: the team in question has a Russian player who could face repercussions from the Kremlin for showing solidarity with the queer community. 

It’s perfectly reasonable not to expect a Russian player to wear a pride jersey out of concern for his safety, but it’s not okay to tell an entire team they can’t wear one. There’s no reason to take an all-or-nothing approach to this situation. Doing so looks like a cowardly excuse not to show support for LGBTQ+ fans and athletes.  

Taking away the option for Russian players to decide for themselves whether they want to make that wager is unfair, even if it’s well-intentioned.

Like many sports environments, the professional hockey world is notoriously homophobic and misogynistic. There’s a reason there are no openly queer NHL players, and that reason is not that they simply don’t exist. Wearing pride jerseys is a small gesture players can make to show support for fans and fellow athletes—out or not. 

For Russian players, the decision carries more weight and may have more to do with safety than homophobia. Teams jumping at the opportunity to take advantage of Russian players’ circumstances to prevent all players wearing the jerseys, however, is homophobic.

In this part of the world, we take for granted the rights and liberties of marginalized people. Though the LGBTQ+ community still faces inequities, queerness is not a crime in Canada or the United States like it is in Russia.

As much as we may want to resist anti-LGBTQ+ Russian law and prevent it from interfering in decisions made on Canadian soil, the Kremlin has the power to intimidate people and deliver harsh consequences. While queer solidarity is important—especially for an organization with a well-known toxic masculinity problem—the NHL has a responsibility to protect its players.

Taking a stand is a lot easier when you’re in a democracy. The potential fallout for Russian players isn’t the same as that of their Canadian and American counterparts.

Chocking this issue up to homophobia is an over-simplification. Removing the option of wearing pride jerseys altogether is a homophobic over-correction. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: leave the decision up to the players. 

If the NHL wants to make a real impact, there are also a lot of other ways to show support that won’t put people at risk, like donating to pro-LGBTQ+ charities and working to eliminate barriers to coming out in sports environments.

An organization of the NHL’s eminence could do a lot to address the epidemic of violence against trans people and combat trans exclusion in sport. Without more concrete action in support of the queer community to supplement pride warmup jerseys, the NHL risks disappointing LGBTQ+ hockey fans with their performative allyship.

For any gesture to be impactful, players must both want to participate and be able to do so safely—acts of solidarity are only meaningful if they’re genuine. 

—Journal Editorial Board


Hockey, LGBTQ+, NHL, Pride, queer activism, Russia

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

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