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Endorse or else

The reaction to Ivan Provorov's refusal to wear a Pride jersey shows the progression of LGBT demands

Philadelphia Flyers' Ivan Provorov Associated Press/Photo by Matt Slocum

Endorse or else
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One man’s refusal to wear a hockey jersey has revealed spreading intolerance of historic Christian orthodoxy. It shows that the pendulum has swung from “tolerate us” to “participate with us . . . or else.”

Imagine jumping into a time machine and heading to 1985. You go to an NHL hockey game, and the team skates out with Pride flag insignia on the jerseys. It would shock you, if you even understood what it meant.


Because it has nothing to do with hockey. The sexual proclivities of individuals don’t need corporate representation or support. Christians don’t demand symbols of Christian sexual ethics be worn on team uniforms, and there’s no need to wear other symbols of sexual ethics or identity politics. It is meaningless, except as a progressive virtue signal.

But that is the situation in 2023 in the NHL. All 32 NHL teams have some sort of “Pride Night” or “Inclusion Night” on their home calendar. Teams come out in uniforms wearing Pride symbols and insignia in support of NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” campaign. It is unclear why this campaign is necessary other than collecting social capital from progressive media, cultural gatekeepers, and LGBTQ+ activists.

People of every race, age, sexual identity, national origin, gender, and other categories can purchase hockey tickets and attend games. Homosexuals and transgender-identified persons have the same access as everyone else. But having the players wear gay flags on their sweaters increases the comfort levels of those fans—or something like that.

It is not enough to simply let people live how they want to live. The expectation is now full-throated endorsement. Bake the cake. Make the flowers. Wear the jersey.

But last week offered a glimpse into how sacred these “participation nights” are. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Ivan Provorov, a player for the Philadelphia Flyers, refused to participate in pregame warm-ups in the “Pride Night” jerseys. After the game, the media swarmed Provorov in disbelief, questioning his decision. Provorov responded, “I respect everybody, and I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

Provorov refused to participate because he is a Christian. He holds historic Christian beliefs on sexuality and believes anything to the contrary is wicked in the sight of God. Provorov doesn’t want to skate around as a billboard promoting sexual perversions that violate Scripture, his convictions, and the natural law.

His actions and the following statement led to many outrageous reactions from sports media. Longtime hockey journalist Pierre LeBrun said, “But Provorov obviously does not respect ‘everyone’. If he did respect everyone, he would have taken part in warm-up and worn the Pride Night jersey. Don’t hide behind religion.” Sid Seixeiro, a Canadian television personality, remarked, “The theme is not Hockey Is For Everyone dot dot dot unless you don’t believe in gay rights then do whatever you want.” The emotional outbursts continued with Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Marcus Hayes. He wrote, “Provorov refused to warm up Tuesday night against Anaheim because he does not support the right of LGBTQ+ people to even exist.”

These remarks show the exaggerated intolerance of media and progressives today for Christians to stand true to their beliefs. The progression has shifted over the last 20 years from tolerance (let us be), to affirmation (agree with us), to celebration (cheer us), to participation (actively promote us). It is not enough to simply let people live how they want to live. The expectation is now full-throated endorsement. Bake the cake. Make the flowers. Wear the jersey.

It is unclear if the Flyers or the NHL will do anything in response to Provorov’s decision and remarks, though activists are calling for drastic action. Some are calling for suspensions and fines—or worse. The NHL released a statement later in the week saying, “Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.” Supporters of Provorov have responded by purchasing his hockey jersey so often that it has sold out in every size. This shows that not everyone loves having other people’s sexual ethics thrown in their faces and being forced to applaud. People who demonstrate even an ounce of courage to stand against it attract fans and haters.

“Hockey is for Everyone” is the NHL’s message to the global community. But the responses of media and other pundits to Ivan Provorov send a message to Christians, “Wear the jersey, participate in the promotion, or there’s no place for you.” The message is loud and clear.

Erik Reed

Erik Reed is the lead pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon, Tenn. He also founded Knowing Jesus Ministries, a non-profit organization that exists to proclaim timeless truth for everyday life. Erik is the author of Uncommon Trust: Learning to Trust God When Life Doesn’t Make Sense and the upcoming book, Hold the Line: A Call for Christian Conviction in a Culture of Conformity. He is married to Katrina and has three children: Kaleb (who went to be with the Lord in 2019), Kaleigh Grace, and Kyra Piper.


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