NHL player scolded for skipping Pride event launches debate over forced activism: ‘I think it’s ridiculous’

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov made headlines this week as the subject of intense criticism for skipping festivities celebrating LGBTQ pride, the latest example of an issue being foisted upon people who don’t necessarily agree with it.

Provorov decided Tuesday to skip pregame warmups when the team wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape, saying it goes against his religion. Provorov has been blasted by the left for the move, but others have rallied to his side as he is simply staying true to his beliefs.

Provorov’s polarizing decision is reminiscent of Tampa Bay Rays pitchers who were labeled “bigots” for declining to wear gay pride patches during an LGBTQ celebration in June. Provorov and the Rays players were both maligned, much like athletes who did not kneel during the national anthem were criticized by the left amid a wave of racial tension in the US

Iconic sitcom “Seinfeld” foreshadowed the current climate nearly 30 years ago when Michael Richards’ Kramer was attacked for declining to wear a ribbon during an AIDS walk. An angry mob insisted he wear the ribbon in what’s become a modern meme deriding liberals as overbearing cultural scolds.

The liberal sports media came down hard on Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov for skipping festivities celebrating LGBTQ pride.
(Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

SPORTS MEDIA MOCKS FLYERS’ IVAN PROVOROV’S FAITH FOR REFUSING TO PARTICIPATE IN PRIDE FESTIVITIES

“I have to? See, that’s why I don’t want to,” Kramer said in the 1995 episode. “This is America, I don’t have to wear anything I don’t want to wear.”

Fox News contributor Guy Benson said he’s seen the desire for inclusion grow into something much more dangerous.

“There’s been a journey from pursuing tolerance, which is healthy, to acceptance, to enforced celebration, to punishment and ostracizing of dissenters. And I think at a certain point, it becomes unhealthy and unwelcome,” Benson told Fox News Digital.

Benson, who is a passionate hockey fan, is pleased that the NHL and other professional sports leagues have become more tolerant of LGBT people in their communities. He pointed out that the NHL has never had a single openly gay player in history.

“That’s not an accident, that’s happening for a cultural reason,” Benson said. “Trying to make people more comfortable to be themselves, and just focus on their job, which is playing hockey, I think is really commendable and good.”

Many sports media personalities have vilified Provorov for his stance. Canadian sports pundit Sid Seixeiro called on the NHL to fine the Flyers “$1 million,” NHL Network senior reporter EJ Hradek suggested the Russia-born Flyer player should go back to his homeland and join the fight against Ukraine if participating in Pride events is ” that problematic for him,” ESPN senior NHL writer Greg Wyshynski called out Provorov for previously participating in the Flyers’ military appreciation event and a plethora of other high-profile pundits have denounced him as well.

Benson, who is gay, feels the pivot from simply trying to make the game more inclusive to force-feeding activism on athletes has a negative impact.

“Some of these pundits are calling for suspensions, fines. I think it’s ridiculous. I also think it’s self-defeating because the whole purpose of showing solidarity and signaling your support, the point of that is to make people feel like you are embracing a cause. of your own volition because it’s what you believe,” Benson said.

“And if it turns out that a lot of this is being done to avoid consequences, and because it’s effectively mandatory, then that signal, that gesture becomes, in my view, completely empty,” Benson continued. “Because, a lot of people are doing it not because they feel convicted to do so, but because they feel like they must. And I don’t know how that’s welcoming or empowering in any way.”

SPORTS PUNDIT SLAMS FLYERS PLAYER FOR SKIPPING TEAM’S PRIDE FESTIVITIES, CALLS ON NHL TO FINE PHILLY

A detail of the Tampa Bay Rays rainbow patterned logo celebrating Pride Month during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field on June 04, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida.

A detail of the Tampa Bay Rays rainbow patterned logo celebrating Pride Month during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Tropicana Field on June 04, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida.
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Benson said he doesn’t recall ever supporting a cause he didn’t truly believe in, which is exactly what professional athletes and other public figures are often subjected to.

“I make a living saying exactly what I believe, even when it’s unpopular,” Benson said. “I’m not a big fan of coerced speech or coerced belief.”

Benson believes the Provorov saga is simply the latest example of “liberal excesses” germinating and expanding to the point where they get exported across different elements of American culture. At a certain point, he feels that people are essentially asked to sign “loyal pledges” or face consequences.

“Pretty totalitarian,” Benson said.

Casey Flores, a gay Republican activist, believes attempts to embrace the LGBTQ community are often “exclusionary” because voices of religious minorities aren’t considered.

Rainbow colors seen in the United States national team's badge in support of LGBTQ+ people pictured in a room used for briefings.

Rainbow colors seen in the United States national team’s badge in support of LGBTQ+ people pictured in a room used for briefings.
(REUTERS/Carl Recine)

ESPN WRITER CALLS OUT FLYERS PLAYER FOR WEARING JERSEY TO SUPPORT MILITARY BUT SKIPPING LGBTQ SWEATER

“We’re a big country and we have a lot of different viewpoints,” Flores told Fox News Digital. “Unfortunately, people who have taken the side of the LGBT… they have ignored the views of religious minorities.”

Flores feels Christians and other religious minorities have views “forced” on them.

“I’m really disappointed, as a gay man with that, because we all have to get along. We have a big country with a lot of different viewpoints, and they’re kind of being extremely intolerant,” Flores said.

Flores believes tolerance is essential to democracy, but that requires people to be understanding of individuals who don’t want to be forced to care about a specific issue.

“What the left misses is that this is the greatest country in the world and this is the greatest country in the world to be gay in. We can marry, we can adopt, and we cannot be fired for being gay, and I don’t.” I don’t know what more they want,” Flores continued. “It’s either their way or the highway.”

SPORTS PUNDIT SLAMS FLYERS PLAYER FOR SKIPPING TEAM’S PRIDE FESTIVITIES, CALLS ON NHL TO FINE PHILLY

Conservative strategist Chris Barron, who was the organizer of LGBT for Trump, believes he has a “more nuanced take” on the Provorov situation that the average American because he plays hockey and knows the sport’s culture firsthand.

“I have no problem with Provorov not wearing the Pride jersey. It’s completely his right not to,” Barron told Fox News Digital.

However, Barron doesn’t think it’s appropriate for anyone to condemn the NHL for trying to grow the sport, or to praise Provorov for refusing to participate.

“Elevating him to some sort of hero — or to pretend hockey doesn’t have a legitimate reason to be reaching out to new demographics to grow the sport — is something being done by some on the right who wouldn’t know the difference. between a hand grenade and a hockey puck,” Barron said.

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Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

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