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Blackhawks opt not to wear Pride jerseys for safety of Russian players

The Blackhawks won’t wear Pride jerseys for pregame warmups Sunday as previously scheduled, according to multiple reports, and despite participating in the past, they’ll become the latest NHL team to decline this season.

The Athletic, Associated Press and Chicago Sun-Times all reported on the pivot, with anonymous sources citing safety concerns for Russian players as a primary reason — with The Athletic adding that the move was made by “team management and security officials” and not the players.

Earlier in the season, the Wild and the Rangers also decided to not wear the Pride-themed jerseys for warmups, while individual players — such as Flyers defender Ivan Provorov and Sharks goalie James Reimer — also have skipped warmups this season and refused to wear the jersey.

“We do not condone anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, and we stand firmly with the community,” the Blackhawks said in a statement, according to The Athletic. “While we know gameday celebrations like these are an important way we can use our platform to bring visibility, it is the work we do together 365 days a year that can create true impact in ensuring all of our colleagues, fans and communities feel welcomed and safe within our sport.”

The Blackhawks were scheduled to wear their Pride jerseys for warmups Sunday.
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Caleb Jones, pictured in 2022, and the Blackhawks wore Pride jerseys ahead of a game last season.
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According to The Athletic, the team’s decision goes against what one of Chicago’s alternate captains and its CEO have previously said about the team’s Pride Night and individual participation.

An article by The Athletic explaining the reason behind the decision cited a New York Times article from December, which wrote about a controversial new law from Russian president Vladimir Putin that made it illegal to “spread ‘propaganda’ about ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ in the media, advertising, movies or on social media.”

When Provorov skipped warmups in January, he said the decision stemmed from his Russian Orthodox religious beliefs, and Reimer cited his Christian beliefs.

“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 life,” Reimer said in a statement after his decision to not participate in warmups or wear the jersey Saturday night.

The Sharks wore their Pride-themed jerseys Saturday, but goalie James Reimer opted to not participate.
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Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, forward Philipp Kurashev and goaltender Anton Khudobin are the three Blackhawks players with family in Russia or Russian heritage, according to the Sun-Times.

But, as The Athletic reported, other Russian NHL players — such as the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, and the Sharks’ Alexander Barabanov and Nikolai Knyzhov — have worn Pride-themed jerseys this season, while photos from the 2022 season showed the Blackhawks wearing special jerseys for warmups.