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Bowlby's Breakdown: NHL fails walking back pride tape controversy

One announcement at a time, the NHL has continued to dig itself a hole with its stance on supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

The NHL decided to ban pride stick tape after the 2022-23 season featured a string of pride-night controversies. A handful of players refused to wear pride jerseys, and teams canceled pride nights altogether. 

With everything last year, the NHL advised teams back in June to not wear specialty jerseys during nights that celebrated causes like Pride. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated the reason for the advisory was to keep away from distractions. 

What was already a major setback was followed up with an actual ban on the pride stick tape just days before the regular season opened. The decision was met with disappointment from the league’s players, fans and others. Some players said that despite the ban, they would still use pride tape.

“I’ll use the tape,” said Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton. “If I have to buy it myself, I will.” Others around the league said they would also use the tape regardless of the ban. 

Saturday night, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott became the first player to defy the ban and use the pride tape during a game. The move by Dermott opened up the debate even further as to why the NHL issued the ban in the first place. 

Tuesday afternoon, just three days after Dermott used the tape, the NHL lifted the ban.

While it all began as a way to “not be a distraction,” the NHL’s rulings have caused league-wide debates and controversy.  

For a league that is said to be committed to being inclusive and welcoming to all, the recent decisions have significantly harmed that message. How are young people who want to play hockey supposed to feel welcome if the league is not inclusive? How is the player who doesn’t share the same characteristics with their teammates supposed to play in a league that treats them unequally?

The wrong message is being sent. Even if the league is committed to limiting off-ice distractions, they are doing it completely wrong. Taking away the ability for players to show support for causes they support is extremely hurtful for the league. 

If the league wants to protect a player’s freedom of speech to not partake in pride events, then a ban on pride tape directly contradicts that ideal. 

The NHL has the opportunity to right its wrongs and move in the right direction by being more inclusive. Allowing players to support causes they are passionate about needs to be at the center of the goal to be inclusive and promote diversity. 

Andrew Bowlby is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of  The Post. Want to share your thoughts about the column? Let Andrew know by tweeting him @andrew_bowlby.

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