The National Hockey League has reversed its previously announced ban on the use of Pride Tape during games following criticism that it infringed on players’ free speech rights.
The league, players’ union, and a committee on inclusion reversed course, agreeing to allow players to represent social causes — including but not limited to LGBTQ inclusion — important to them with stick tape during warmups, practices, and games.
The league had sought to ban rainbow-colored Pride tape for all on-ice activities to cater to a handful of players on teams who wished not to be associated with pro-LGBTQ initiatives or events for religious or political reasons.
Pride Tape is a rainbow-colored, cotton blend high-performance cloth using a special dye that is supposed to withstand prolonged use. Proceeds from the sale of the tape, which is meant to signify support for LGBTQ inclusion in sports, benefit LGBTQ youth outreach and educational initiatives — which many players have been happy to support.
The Pride Tape ban drew criticism from several pro-LGBTQ players, longtime executive Brian Burke, and LGBTQ advocates.
Philadelphia Flyers center Scott Laughton told reporters he planned to use Pride Tape on his stick regardless of the ban and Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott defied the ban by using the tape on his stick during the team’s game against the Anaheim Ducks this past Saturday.
The Coyotes are scheduled to hold the first Pride Night of the Season on Friday, October 27.
“We are so very grateful to everyone who believes hockey should be a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space for all,” the makers of Pride Tape said in a statement on social media. “We are extremely happy that NHL players will now have the option to voluntarily represent important social causes with their stick tape throughout season.”
The NHL Players’ Association said it was “pleased to see the league’s policy has been revised so that players are free to support causes they believe in,” noting that the ban also applied to non-LGBTQ specialty jerseys, such as those expressing appreciation for military members and veterans, or those dedicated to certain causes, such as cancer awareness.
Because players all enjoy free speech, there’s also nothing preventing those few players who do object to LGBTQ-initiatives to don their own symbols expressing their religious beliefs or support for conservative causes.
The You Can Play Project, which advocates for greater LGBTQ participation in sports, called the reversal of the Pride Tape ban “a win for us all.”
“Actively welcoming communities into hockey is imperative to keep the sport strong now and into the future,” You Can Play said in a statement. “We appreciate…the NHL’s willingness to listen and make the right choice.”
A recent Morning Consult poll found that 47% of adults supported sports leagues hosting Pride nights and events promoting inclusivity. Support is especially strong among younger generations, with 60% of millennials and 57% of Gen Z respondents favoring inclusionary campaigns.
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