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NHL reverses Pride Tape ban after player’s protest

NHL reverses Pride Tape ban after player’s protest
Posted at 8:55 AM, Oct 26, 2023

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National Hockey League reversed its ban against players using Pride Tape as part of their uniform or equipment on Oct. 24, less than two weeks after the controversial ban was put in place.

Pride Tape is a rainbow version of the specialty cotton tape used by hockey players to reinforce the grip on their hockey sticks and also for decoration. The product also serves as a way for people to show their support for LGBTQ+ people and their rights.

Rangers player Zac Jones skates with Pride Tape on hockey stick
Bruce Bennett/AP Photo

The NHL lifted the ban a few days after Arizona Coyotes defenseman Travis Dermott hit the ice for his team’s home opener against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 21 using a stick covered with Pride Tape.

“After consultation with the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, Players will now have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season,” the official NHL announcement says.

The decision to defy the NHL ban didn’t come easy for Dermott. He said his goal wasn’t to offend his team or the league, but to stand up for what he believes is right, adding that he had support from his organization for the move.

“It’s not like I just jumped on this train,” he told reporters in a post-game statement. “It’s something that I’ve felt has been lacking in the hockey community for a while. I feel like we need supporters of a movement like this; to have everyone feel included and really to beat home the idea that hockey is for everyone.”

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Controversy Over Rainbow-Themed Gear

For nearly seven years prior to the ban, Pride Tape had been a visible show of support in the NHL for young LGBTQ+ hockey players. The colorful tape stood out; hockey players usually wrapped their sticks in black or white tape.

The ban went into effect on Oct. 12 when the professional sports league informed hockey players they could no longer use the tape as an extension of the uniform policy announced over the summer, which prohibited themed jerseys during warmups.

In June, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told Canada’s Sportsnet that these specialty jerseys, including those worn for Pride Nights, were becoming too much of a “distraction” to the game.

“It’s taking away from the fact that all of our clubs, in some form or another, host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we’d rather them continue to get the appropriate attention that they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman said in the interview.

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Calvin Petersen holds stick wrapped in Pride Tape
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

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Late in the 2022-2023 NHL season, several teams and individual players refused to wear Pride warmup jerseys with rainbow designs as part of a themed celebration. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, many cited their religious and/or political beliefs as the reason for their opposition.

Most players and teams, though, moved forward with their Pride theme nights. Some players spoke out in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’m going to continue to be involved in the community and offer support to those communities and those groups that want that [and] need that,” Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Riley told reporters earlier this year, the CBC reported.

The pride controversy quieted down during the off-season — until the Oct. 12 ban on using Pride Tape on hockey sticks.

Following the NHL ban reversal, the makers of Pride Tape — who have long provided Dermott with their product, ESPN reports — thanked supporters of its product and cause on social media.

“We are so very grateful to everyone who believes hockey should be a safe, inclusive, and welcoming space for all,” the caption read. “We are extremely happy that NHL players will now have the option to voluntarily represent important social causes with their stick tape throughout the season.”

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