NHL brothers refuse to wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys, say ‘it goes against our Christian beliefs’
Eric and Marc Staal, veteran NHL brothers who play for the Florida Panthers, refused to wear Pride-themed jerseys in warmups before their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
The warmup jerseys were part of Florida’s Pride night game in support of the LGBTQ community in the Sunrise area. The Staal brothers cited their religion as the reason for the decision.
“We carry no judgement (sic) on how people choose to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey,” they said in a statement. “Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a Pride jersey it goes against our Christian beliefs.”
Eric Staal said after the game he just wanted to stick with the original statement and “try my best to move forward.” Marc Staal was not made available to the media.
Florida coach Paul Maurice tried to make the story about the players who did participate.
“My thought is the story is not about them,” Maurice said. “The story is about the rest of the group being excited, the organization and the fans being excited to celebrate a great night.
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“These are grown men who have lived in their faith their whole lives. This is not new to them. They have the right to take that stand. The rest of the players wore that sweater proudly and I hope we conveyed that message of ‘Welcome to our building, welcome to our franchise and welcome to the great game of hockey.”
Matthew Tkachuk wore the warmup jersey and said he “embraced a night like this.”
“A night like tonight, for me, is just about including everyone,” he added. “It is, in my opinion, the greatest game in the world and everyone is welcome in our locker room and into our organization.”
The Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks have all experienced some controversy over players not waring the Pride-themed warmup jersey.
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks decided against wearing a special warmup jersey to commemorate their Pride Night on Sunday. The team cited an anti-gay Kremlin law that could put their Russian athletes in harm’s way when they return home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.