NHL’s commitment to diversity under microscope at All-Star game

NHL’s commitment to diversity under microscope at All-Star game

Signed into law in 2022 by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill prohibits educators in the state from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students. DeSantis, who has “espoused anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and politics” throughout his political career, says Florida “is where the revival is going to die.”

The timing seems ominous for the NHL, which is due to hold its annual All-Star celebrations in Sunrise, Fla., Feb. 3-4, and has faced an outpouring of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment from fans, players and organizations within the league. Not only because the league’s “Hockey is for Everyone” campaign is increasingly being questioned, but also because DeSantis himself has targeted the NHL’s own diversity efforts.

In January, DeSantis spoke out against a proposed NHL job fair to be held in conjunction with the league’s “Pathways to Hockey” summit on Feb. 2 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The job fair originally sought to recruit attendees who “identify as , Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and/or someone with a disability,” while encouraging alumni fighters to apply. DeSantis immediately reacted, calling the NHL’s search “discrimination.”

“Discrimination of any kind is not welcome in the State of Florida, and we do not respect the long-held idea that discrimination should be ignored whether applied in a politically popular way or against any group politically unpopular demographic,” DeSantis publicist Bryan Griffin said. A declaration.

“We fight all discrimination in our schools and workplaces, and we will fight it in places of meeting or activity accessible to the public. We call on the National Hockey League to immediately withdraw and speak out against the discriminatory bans it placed on attendance at the 2023 Pathway to Hockey Summit.”

Gary Bettman and the NHL will once again be under the microscope in this weekend’s All-Star Game. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NHL aimed to increase diversity within the league, particularly in hiring practices following the release of the league’s first-ever Diversity Report, which found that 83.6% of employees in the NHL are white, and only 36.81% of league employees identify as female, while less than 4% identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did not respond to DeSantis. Instead, the NHL removed all words related to the various candidates from its posting and as Bettman told The Athletic, the NHL was looking to move forward with the All-Star Game without conflict between the league and the Governor of Florida.

“The answer is that we plan to be at Sunrise and celebrate our sport at the All-Star Game,” Bettman said. “I don’t want to get into any of this, but the point is that what the summit is and was has been misinterpreted. This is not a job fair. It was an information session so that people could know more about us.

The NHL’s run-in with DeSantis and the removal of wording from his posting was the first in a sequence of events involving the league drawing criticism from defenders and allies.

The timeline of events and timing of the NHL’s visit to Florida, along with the ongoing attack on LGBTQ+ populations in sports, will underscore the league’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in the spotlight. If this were an isolated incident, DeSantis alone could be identified as the force of exclusion, but All-Star Weekend and the NHL’s pushback from inclusive language in promoting its “Pathway to Hockey” summit “, is another moment in a growing timeline of contentious decisions involving the NHL’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

In November, Jordan Peterson, a well-known anti-LGBTQ+ fanatic and misogynist, directly confronted the NHL on Twitter after the league posted a message celebrating Team Trans, an all-transgender hockey organization. The post received hundreds of anti-trans replies, prompting the NHL to stand up for the transgender community, tweeting “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary identity is real.

Peterson quoted the NHL’s statement, saying, “Not hockey too…. Canada is doomed. Peterson also misinterpreted Team Trans event attendees and spread misinformation, which Team Trans later clarified directly to Yahoo. While the NHL’s response to Peterson was clear, the controversial speaker still appeared Jan. 30 at the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa, a facility owned by the same group that operates the Ottawa Senators. He will visit the FLA Live Arena, home of the Florida Panthers and the 2023 NHL All-Star Game, in March.

Peterson’s claims were followed by DeSantis’ demands, which were followed shortly after by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refusing to warm up while wearing a Pride-themed jersey. Instead of standing up for the LGBTQ+ community and fairness, the NHL, in response to Provorov’s decision, which was backed by Flyers coach John Tortorella, gave clubs permission to decide how to celebrate groups under the aegis “Hockey is for everyone”.

“Clubs decide who to celebrate, when and how,” the NHL said in a statement. “Players decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”

Less than two weeks later, the New York Rangers completely ditched their pride-themed warm-up jerseys and use of rainbow hockey tape.

In response, Rangers released a statement saying, “Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community, and we are proud to bring attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night. In line with the core values ​​of our organization, we support everyone’s individuality. right to respectfully express one’s beliefs. »

One of these “important local community organizations”, NYC Pride, which was invited to participate in the Rangers Pride Night, was reportedly not informed of the team’s decision not to wear the jerseys or to use rainbow ribbon.

“NYC Pride was honored to participate in these celebrations, including just last night at Madison Square Garden. NYC Pride was not notified in advance of our participation in the puck-off ceremony. from last night that the Pride jerseys and rainbow ribbon would not be worn as advertised,” the organization told ESPN. “We understand and appreciate that this has been a huge disappointment for the LGBTQ+ community in New York City and beyond.

“We are communicating these concerns to NY Rangers and NHL leadership as we continue to discuss ways these organizations can work for inclusion. NYC Pride has a duty to support our partners and hold them accountable. Commit to continuing our relationship with the NY Rangers and the NHL and maintaining substantial dialogue with them on a meaningful alliance with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Families, educators and human rights groups have actively fought Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, filing numerous lawsuits in hopes of having the law struck down in court. In the past, other leagues, including Major League Baseball in 2021, have moved their All-Star events following the creation of laws affecting marginalized groups.

But the NHL, as Bettman said, doesn’t want to “increase the debate on this,” referring to DeSantis targeting the league’s attempt to increase diverse representation among NHL employees.

“We’re looking forward to the All-Star Game,” Bettman told The Athletic.

Let this become a topic of discussion among the media, fans, league officials and players on NHL All-Star Weekend 2023, in a state where “Don’t Say Gay” is the law, the NHL faces a tipping point. With growing dissent among players and teams and pressure from politicians like DeSantis, the NHL must decide if it is prepared to meet its own commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, and how, or if, the league will support universal human rights for LGBTQ+ athletes, fans, employees and citizens.

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