Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
James Reimer, a 13-year NHL veteran goalie, chose to sit out his team’s pre-game skate rather than wear a special LGBTQ-themed warmup jersey.
The San Jose Sharks, who eventually lost 4-1 to the New York Islanders Saturday night, have spent the week staging various events meant to show the team’s acceptance and celebration of LGBTQ individuals. Saturday, that included players wearing special “Shark Pride Night” warmups.
Reimer, a practicing Christian, said wearing a jersey that openly advocated for homosexuality ran contrary to his religious values.
“For all 13 years of my NHL career, I have been a Christian — not just in title but in how I choose to live my daily,” Reimer said in a statement shared through the team’s official Twitter account. “I have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, who died on a cross for my sins and, in response, asks me to love everyone and to follow Him. I have no hate in my heart for anyone, and I have always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect and kindness.”
A statement from Goaltender, James Reimer: pic.twitter.com/GwhWxhbmb4
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) March 18, 2023
Reimer, a native of Arborg, Manitoba, Canada, became the second NHL player this season to boycott pregame over pride-themed jerseys.
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, a member of the Russian Orthodox faith, made a similar decision in January.
Last June, several players on the Major League Baseball Tampa Bay Rays refused to wear LGBTQ-themed logos on their caps during a game, again citing religious convictions.
“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 my life,” Reimer said. “I strongly believe that every person has value and worth and the LGBTQIA+ community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects of the game of hockey.”
The Sharks, in a separate statement, said the team backed both its player and the LGBTQ community.
“We acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”
Reimer indicated he had no problem with his team or teammates endorsing or supporting whatever causes they choose, and he had no issue with playing in an arena adorned with pro-LGBTQ paraphernalia. His line, he said, was drawn when the celebration of LGBTQ pride involved his body.
“Some guys don’t do [LGBTQ-themed} tape and some guys do,” ESPN quoted Reimer as saying after practice. “[The tape] is not as mandatory or in your face. So when it comes to jerseys, then it’s definitely more of a decision and it kind of amounts to something like this if you choose not to wear the jersey. When I saw other teams starting to wear jerseys, I knew that would intersect with my Christian faith.”
As to his future in the NHL, Reimer, whose contract is up at the end of this year, said he was uncertain.
“I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t something that crossed my mind honestly,” ESPN quoted Reimer as saying. “I’m sure there’s people in management or ownership that won’t look favorably on this. At the same time, I hope that there’s another handful of people in management or ownership that respect me for standing up for what I believe in and that’s a big part of who I am.”
The idea of LGBTQ pride celebrations has been a divisive one for some NHL franchises. The Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers announced they would wear pride-themed jerseys only to eventually opt out.