It’s been a week since Flyers’ defenseman Ivan Provorov ruined pride night by refusing to take warmups in a jersey featuring rainbow numbers. The situation ended up becoming national news covered by both hockey and non-hockey outlets across the U.S. and Canada. It was the first time the Philadelphia Flyers put forth a decent effort for pride night, after previous seasons were criticized for their ill-considered nature.
While it united most of the hockey community to come together and denounce hate within the sport, there’s a darker side of all this- all the homophobes and mouth-breathing republicans of the world have elevated Provorov as their bastardized pariah, championing his hateful act as a beacon of “free speech” and “religious freedoms” and other such nonsense these folks pretend is under attack.
For the Flyers to not shut his shit down or punish Provorov in any fashion was a huge misstep. For head coach John Tortorella to face the media not once but twice and refuse to condemn his actions was even worse. The organization did themselves absolutely no favors when it came to fending off the public backlash.
Now, there have been some rumors that the business and PR side didn’t know his hijinks were about to go down despite Chuck Fletcher and the hockey ops side being fully aware of what was going to happen, blindsiding the side of the front office responsible for the massive amounts of damage control that would have to come from the night.
But where was the front office to begin with? Where was Chuck Fletcher to answer questions? What about Dave Scott? Even Val Camillo, who has made fighting for diversity and inclusion in sports here main initiative, has remained silent on the issue. While Tortorella hasn’t handled things well, he’s been completely alone when it comes to fielding questions from the rightfully prying media. It’s been seven days and not a soul has come forth to address Provorov’s actions.
It’s one of the biggest things that is wrong both at face value and overall with the Flyers organization these days, the secrecy and silence from the front office on a day-to-day basis. Hiding away during the tumultuous time the on-ice product has been in the last few years, and now they make headlines for all the wrong reasons and still nobody feels it necessary to lead the franchise.
Even though a week has passed and the national coverage has begun to die down, there’s a good chance we haven’t felt the full ramifications from Provorov’s actions yet.
There’s about 700 players in the NHL, a number that can reach as high as 1,000 when factoring in call ups. There’s a good chance at least a couple dozen of those players express the same hate-filled views as Provorov. Some have probably grinned and bared theme nights in the past, others may play for teams that have weak takes on special nights, but now, there’s the chance that those homophobic players will boycott themes such as pride night, totally defeating the purpose of inclusion initiatives in the first place.
Not to mention things like Hispanic heritage, lunar new year, Japanese heritage, black history month, indigenous people’s night and other various celebrations of diversity in the sport are now open for hijacking by any stupid idiot player whose IQ is lower than their jersey number to pull the “but my freedoms” card and sit out.
It’s very on-brand these days for the Flyers to actually host a decent pride night and still walk away from the evening in a worse light than they went in. It’s all thanks to their self-inflicted stupidity and lack of communication within the front office.
Though the rest of the players on the roster have to be commended. They banded together and chose to wear the jerseys despite knowing Provorov’s stance. Hell, even Tony Deangelo, one of the most vocal simple-minded right wing dingbats in the league, swallowed his detest in the name of not fracturing the locker room and that really paints Provorov in an even worse light.
News passes and soon Provorov’s actions will be a distant memory for most. Though he’ll carry the stigma with him for the rest of his career and to the people he spit in the face of, we’ll never forget who he really is. Hopefully the public backlash will not deter the Flyers organization from stepping up for pride nights in the future, because had the Provorov stuff not happened, it would’ve been a great night from a team that hasn’t had many lately.
The outpouring of support from allies and those within the LGBTQ+ community in a show of solidarity was a welcome sight. Hockey is a tough enough sport to feel accepted in on a normal day, let alone when every neo-nazi comes out from their mother’s basement to celebrate their new fellow undesirable shit stain of a human.
The bad cannot outweigh the good. Hate will never win. There are too many people fighting too hard for inclusion for the weak-minded men out there to get their way. Hopefully the Flyers ship Provorov out of town during the offseason and go even harder for their pride night next season. It’d be the best way at this point to prove which side of the fence they ultimately stand on.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)