The San Jose Sharks are celebrating Pride Night in a home game against the New York Islanders, and goaltender James Reimer will not be participating in warmups because of his decision not to wear jerseys the team is wearing to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Reimer released a statement on his decision in which he cites his religious beliefs as the reason he is choosing not to wear the Pride Night warmup jersey.
“Under the umbrella of NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative, the San Jose Sharks have chosen to wear jerseys in support of the LGBTQIA+ community tonight.”
“For all 13 years of my NHL career, I have been a Christian – not just in title, but in how I choose to live my life daily. I have a personal faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sins and, in response, asks me to love everyone and follow Him.
“I have no hate in my heart for anyone, and I have always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect and kindness. In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life.
“I strongly believe that every person has value and worth, and the LGBTQIA+ community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects in the game of hockey.”
The NHL has been doing Pride Nights around the league for some time now, and they often include a special warmup jersey and rainbow stick tape. In speaking with the media about his decision, Reimer said that the stick tape wasn’t as “in your face” and the idea of wearing a pride-themed jersey prompted more thought from him.
“It’s tough … so what other teams have done in the past is, some teams, have done stick tape or something like that, right?” Reimer said, per Corey Masisak of The Athletic. “When it becomes a jersey, it’s a little more … some guys don’t do the tape. Some guys do. (The tape) is not as, I don’t know what the right word is, but mandatory or in your face or whatever. So when it comes to jerseys, then it’s more of a decision and it kind of amounts to something like this if you choose not to wear that jersey. Then we’re kind of back to that question when I saw teams starting to wear jerseys, I knew that would interact with my Christian faith.”
Sharks captain Logan Couture was also asked about Reimer sitting out warmups on Pride Night. Couture said Reimer had the right to make his own decision and pointed out that the rest of the team will wear the jerseys that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
“Every individual has a choice, and he made his,” Couture said, per Masisak. “The rest of us are going to be wearing the jersey I think the organization sees this as an extremely important night. And I think a lot of guys in the room are excited to go out and wear the jersey and celebrate it. I think hockey really is for everyone. It is an inclusive sport. We want it to be that way. We’re looking forward to going out there and putting the jersey on and playing a game.”
Reimer is not the first NHL player to sit out of warmups on Pride Night. On Jan. 17, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov chose not to partake in warmups on Pride Night, and like Reimer, he cited his religious beliefs as the reason.
Throughout the 2022-23 season, several teams have chosen not to wear special warmup jerseys on Pride Night. According to a report from The Athletic, the lack of pride jerseys this season has been linked to a league-wide concern about new Russian anti-gay laws and fear that Russian players would face retribution upon returning home.