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Facing consequences for their faith

NHL goalie may pay price for refusing to bow to LGBTQ+ agenda; Christian school already has

San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer Associated Press/Photo by Adam Hunger, File

Facing consequences for their faith

When the San Jose Sharks hockey team held its Pride Night last Saturday, devout Christian goaltender James Reimer did not participate. During the pregame skate, Sharks players wore jerseys featuring a purple-tinted great white shark on a heart-shaped teal crest and a rainbow-colored “Love Wins” patch on one arm. Reimer also did not play in the Sharks’ 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders later that night.

“In this particular instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible,” Reimer wrote in a statement that the Sharks issued to local and national media. “I strongly believe that every person has value and worth, and the LGBTQIA+ community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects of the game of hockey.”

Whether Reimer did not play because he did not want to participate in Pride Night festivities—which included a drag performance—at all, was benched for declining to participate, or simply sat for rest or performance-related reasons is unclear. The native of Manitoba, Canada, has split time evenly with Kaapo Kahkonen as San Jose’s starting netminder this season. He’d also given up four goals in a loss to the Seattle Kraken just two nights earlier.

In January, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov chose not to wear a Pride-themed warmup jersey before a game against the Anaheim Ducks. Flyers Coach John Tortorella took heat from multiple media outlets for refusing to bench Provorov, a practitioner of the Russian Orthodox faith. In the LGBTQ-friendly San Francisco Bay Area, Sharks Coach David Quinn and General Manager Mike Grier would likely have faced a similar backlash, if not worse.

The Sharks, for their part, expressed support for Reimer’s right to express his faith, while affirming their commitment to providing an “inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment for all guests,” according to a press release. Still, Reimer’s stance could cost him his career. The 14-year NHL veteran becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Having just turned 35 on March 15, Reimer knows teams likely won’t be eager to sign an aging, controversial journeyman goalie.

“I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t something that crossed my mind, honestly,” Reimer told the media after the Sharks’ loss to the Islanders. “This was not a stance I was looking to make. … I’m sure there’s people in management or ownership that won’t look favorably on this.”

Last season, the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League opted not to re-sign defender Jaelene Daniels, who refused to wear pride-themed jerseys on multiple occasions. No other NWSL team has extended Daniels an offer.

In high school sports, Mid-Vermont Christian School athletes have paid perhaps the ultimate athletic price for their stance on LGBTQ policies. On March 13, the Vermont Principals Association (VPA), which governs interscholastic athletics in the state, kicked MVCS out for forfeiting a state girls’ basketball tournament game against a school whose roster included a biological male.

The VPA’s decision was unanimous: All 15 board members voted for the ouster.

“If you don’t want to follow VPA rules, that’s fine,” Executive Director Jay Nichols told local media. “But then you’re just not a VPA member. It’s fairly simple.”

Vicky Fogg, MVCS head of school, declined multiple interview requests from WORLD, providing only the following statement, which her school issued to all media after forfeiting the state tournament game in February: “We withdrew from the tournament because we believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players,” Fogg said. “Allowing biological males to participate in women’s sports sets a bad precedent for the future of women’s sports in general.”

Beyond being prohibited from participating in VPA-sponsored tournaments, it is unclear what impact MVCS’ exile will have on the school’s athletic program. For instance, Fogg would not say whether her school’s teams could play independent schedules and simply not compete in postseason events. Fogg also declined to say if MVCS would have to shut down its athletic program or whether MVCS’ ban is permanent.

Ray Hacke

Ray is a sports correspondent for WORLD who has covered sports professionally for three decades. He is also a licensed attorney who lives in Keizer, Ore., with his wife Pauline and daughter Ava.



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