Two of Thunder Bay’s most well-known hockey players have issued a press release stating they will not be wearing their Pride jerseys tonight during warmups as the Florida Panthers take on the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
The statement reads:
“After many thoughts, prayers and discussions we have chosen not to wear a pride jersey tonight.
We carry no judgment on how people choose to live their lives and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey.
Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a pride jersey it goes against our Christian beliefs.”
This is just the latest instance of a member of the NHL refusing to wear a Pride jersey, prior to the Staal brothers the most recent being San Jose goalie James Reimer, who also cited his Christian background for not participating.
The statement continues:
“We hope you can respect this statement, we will not be speaking any further on this matter and would like to continue to focus on the game and helping the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup.”
The statement comes hours after the Panthers organization put out multiple posts on social media in support of Pride, in a state where the LGBTQ+ community has been targeted by legislators, including Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, and his Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, more famously known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The law prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in school classrooms from kindergarten to grade 3, which DeSantis has hinted he will expand to all grades.
Local reaction has been quick with Rainbow Collective of Thunder Bay President Jason Veltri citing dissapointment with the decision by the Staals in an emailed statement.
“We wish that Eric and Marc could understand that Pride Inclusion Nights and jersey’s are about inclusion in sport and having a welcoming arena to enjoy the game of Hockey. Wearing a Pride jersey or rainbow is not about endorsing certain values or that you’re Gay, what it’s saying is that you’re welcome here and that your sport is welcoming of diverse backgrounds.”