Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov is drawing attention after refusing to participate in his team’s Pride night, during which the athletes wore LGBT-themed warmup jerseys.
Provorov, 26, cited his Russian Orthodox religion as his reason for boycotting the Pride jerseys.
“I respect everybody and I respect everybody’s choices,” he said, according to Fox News. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.”
The athlete faced immediate backlash from social media users, with some claiming he “does not respect ‘everyone'” and others calling him “ignorant, obnoxious, and homophobic.”
One Canadian TV host even said the National Hockey League should “fine the Flyers billions of dollars” over Provorov’s personal choice not to wear the Pride-colored jersey.
Despite the uproar over Provorov’s boycott, he received support from both the National Hockey League and his coach, John Tortorella, who told reporters he was simply “being true to himself.”
Flyers head coach John Tortorella defended Provy and refused to bench him tonight:— Greg Price (@greg_price11) January 18, 2023
“He’s being true to himself.”
“This has to do with his belief and his religion,” the coach explained. “It’s one thing I respect about Provy: He’s always true to himself. That’s where we’re at with that.”
As for the NHL, the organization said in a statement to ESPN players are “free to decide which initiatives to support.”
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“Hockey is for Everyone is the umbrella initiative under which the league encourages clubs to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets, and to work to achieve more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans,” the league stated. “Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with league counsel and support. Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”
In addition to the NHL and Tortorella, Christian thought leaders voiced their support for Provorov.
Conservative blogger Samuel Sey called the athlete “courageous” and writer Caleb Parke added, “Jesus over everything. No player should have to hang up his Christian beliefs to play in the NHL.”
Owen Strachan, provost and theology professor at Grace Bible Theological Seminary, wrote, “While he is Russian Orthodox and I am not, his courage is commendable. Christian, do not bow to the mob. STAND. Be counted.”
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