Report: NYC Pride unaware Rangers wouldn’t use sweaters, rainbow tape on Pride Night

Zac Jones of the New York Rangers skates with a stick decorated for "Pride Night" in warm-ups prior to the game against the Washington Capitals Monday, May 3, 2021, in New York City. (AP)

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The New York Rangers’ decision to pull an about-face on their pregame warmup attire on Friday night came as a disappointing surprise to NYC Pride, according to ESPN.

The Rangers originally promoted the fact the club would wear Pride Night jerseys and wrap their stick blades in rainbow tape before their game against the Vegas Golden Knights. And while New York did some things to honour the LGBTQ community — rainbow lighting on the interior and exterior of Madison Square Garden, a pride-themed fanny pack giveaway — when the Rangers hit the ice for warmup, it was in their reverse-retro “Liberty Head” sweaters instead of the expected Pride Night tribute.

As first reported by ESPN, NYC Pride was unaware the team was reversing course. The organization’s co-chair, Andre Thomas, dropped the ceremonial puck on Friday. He called the Rangers’ actions “a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond.”

The organization added: “In recent years, numerous National Hockey League (NHL) franchises including the New York Rangers have introduced a series of ‘Pride Nights’ to engage the LGBTQ+ community.

“NYC Pride has been honored to take part in these celebrations, including as recently as last night at Madison Square Garden. NYC Pride was not made aware in advance of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puck drop that Pride jerseys and rainbow tape would not be worn as advertised. We understand and appreciate that this has been a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond.

“We are communicating these concerns with NY Rangers and NHL leadership as we continue to discuss the ways these organizations can work toward inclusion. NYC Pride has a duty to both support our partners and hold them accountable. We are committed to continuing our relationships with the NY Rangers and the NHL and maintaining substantive dialogue with them about meaningful allyship with the LGBTQ+ community.”

You Can Play, a social activism campaign dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports, released a statement Sunday morning stating they reached out to the Rangers organization and “look forward to discussing how the voices of allies and advocates on the team seem to have been silenced on the team’s Pride Night and the impact of that decision.”

New York’s decision not to don Pride Night jerseys comes a little more than a week after Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov opted out of warmups rather than wear the Pride-themed jerseys his teammates wore on Jan. 17 versus the Anaheim Ducks. In the aftermath of Provorov’s actions, the National Hockey League released a statement that said players were free to choose which team and league initiatives they supported.

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