CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warm-up jerseys ahead of Sunday Night’s Pride game against Vancouver due to safety concerns related to a Russian law expanding restrictions on activities considered that promote LGBTQ rights in the country.
The decision was made by the NHL organization after discussions with security officials inside and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because of the sensitivity of the move.
The Blackhawks have worn Pride warm-up jerseys before and donned special warm-up jerseys to a few other theme nights this season. There were ongoing discussions about a Gay Pride jersey with the players, according to the person who spoke to the AP, but the organization made the decision to hold Pride Night without the jerseys this year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in December that significantly expands the restrictions on activities considered to promote LGBTQ rights in the country. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is a native of Moscow, and there are other players with relatives in Russia or other connections to the country.
Blackhawks decision comes after San Jose Sharks goalie james reimer and defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers Ivan Provorov he refused to participate in warm-ups wearing Pride-themed T-shirts. The New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride tape as part of their night in January despite previously announcing that plan.
Russians Nikolai Knyzhov and Alexander Barabanov wore the Gay Pride-themed jerseys for the Sharks on Saturday.
While Chicago won’t have Pride warm-up jerseys this year, the team has planned a variety of activities in conjunction with Sunday’s game. DJs from the LGBTQ community will play before the game and during intermission, and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus is also scheduled to perform. There are also plans to highlight a couple of area businesses with ties to the LGBTQ community.
AP sportswriter Josh Dubow contributed to this report.