FOND du LAC  – Back at the end of March this year, I opined about the Minnesota Wild’s last-moment decision to not wear their Pride Night practice jerseys during warmups, as well as their lack of a plausible explanation as to the specifics of that being removed from the evening's ceremonies to help bring awareness to the cause. Some planned events for the evening continued forth, but the exclusion of the much-anticipated Pride Jerseys left a definite pall over the remainder of the night for many. This trend began back in mid-January when a Russian-born player with the Philadelphia Flyers stated that he wouldn't wear the jersey based on religious reasons.

Far be it for me to question the depth or veracity of anyone's religious beliefs or faith, but knowing that Russia is a place with actual laws that say it's OK to treat their LGBTIQA+ citizens as less than equal humans speaks to me quite loudly. The player in question, Ivan Provorov, was recently traded to another team, but I believe that has nothing to do with the jersey-warmup incident and more to do with the organizational rebuild that is underway. The question really begs to be asked though, is Provorov really that "religious” or had some inner Russian-macho man indoctrination spoken for him? I don't know and have been unable to find a real answer to this. The fact remains that if you are in Russia and discriminate against any member of the LGBTIQA+ community you will face no consequences for it.

Like most issues in the states though, the matter got some major attention for a compacted time frame and then we Americans went on to the new dysfunction of the week. Whether it's discrimination, war, religion or the economy, we don't stay locked on any major issues for too long. That's usually because another one is waiting in the wings to displace the current one and so on and so forth. We seem to amble from issue to issue here without ever coming up with any positive or long-lasting solutions for anything. However, a lot of issues don't and shouldn't totally fade from our focus or consciousness and this is an issue that has been fought about for quite some time. The NHL announced early last week that they will no longer allow any jerseys representing any cause to be worn during a pregame warmup. This was decided at a recent league Board of Governors meeting in New York City. Commissioner Gary Bettman, who I am usually supportive of, made the announcement and cited that the issue had become a "distraction" from the essence of what the nights are supposed to be about. Two of the league's recent and biggest public awareness campaigns have been the Pride Nights and their "Hockey is for Everyone" inclusivity pushes. Bettman stated that the campaigns will continue to be a part of the league's public initiatives going forward. On the other hand... When I was growing up in the "boomer" era we were taught, or conditioned to believe, (take your pick) that we were all equal under the law and as such all enjoyed the same freedoms here. Of course, grade school kids didn't know or understand the realities. If you were a person of color back then you'd laugh at the notion that we were all equal or even "free."

For gay people, you were "OK" as long as no one knew you were gay. You were forced to live your gay life as a silenced citizen. The actual truths here didn't support the grandiose verbiage. So I took those slights personally. I'll never have a full understanding of what it's like to be a person of color in this country and even as I fully support equal rights for the LGBTIQA+ neither will I ever know what it's like to live in their shoes. But I can guarantee you that I would and will fight tooth and nail right alongside them in their quest to be able to live as freely as the rest of us and without fear of doing so. Next year I'll turn 70. For at least the last four decades I've watched a steady erosion of our civility and manners toward one another, as well as outright political pushes to deny some members of our society that equality that our Constitution falsely claims we are all entitled to. A great deal of that comes from one political party here. And that push for inequality is also bolstered by the efforts of a religious sect that is embedded within that party. I do not view any of them as being true to what I was taught were American "ideals." Neither do I view them as being true to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Whether you practice a faith or not, Jesus was never about hate or discrimination. I refuse to recognize them as fellow citizens. Whether those ideals turned out to be phony or not they actually are things worth standing up for.     

It was estimated that 95% of the NHL's players were OK with the Pride Nights and with the jersey wearing during warmups. It is estimated that 72% of Americans now believe that we should accept homosexuality in our society. Seventy percent believe same-sex marriage is acceptable. As education and awareness have increased it would appear that our society's levels of tolerance have too. But it also appears that this country has come under the spell of "inversion syndrome." 

When I was a kid we always heard the old "majority rules" saying. Today, what we have here are "minority rules." We get nothing significant done here because of the objection-obstruction stance of several minorities over many different issues. (usually far right-wing evangelicals) And it is only getting worse, not better. Five percent of the NHL's players are against the Pride Night jersey wearing? Tough stuff. Stay in the room during warmup, or better yet, take yourself out of the lineup and off the payroll that night. Sometimes we all have to make some sacrifices for the common good.

Regarding Bettman's "distraction" comment, where would I even start? I get it, you have a business to run and a public corporate image to uphold. Is that as distracting as not having rights that are equal to other citizens? Is it as distracting and as disheartening as being treated poorly at a store or restaurant because of who and what you are? Is it as distracting as being demeaned, cursed at, spit on, beaten up, or even murdered because of who you are?

Nope. Not even close. I have admired Bettman for the many things he has accomplished in an attempt to make the NHL and our game better for everyone. The league and the game have never been better. I have stated that on record many times. For the most part I will continue to feel that way. But we are now on different paths Gary. You have knuckled under to a very distinct minority. It's not even close. And you chose the easiest path out. Where did that tough guy go that slaps the players union around during every CBA negotiation? Looks like he is on summer vacation. PEACE