Brock expert discusses NHL player’s Pride night boycott

EXPERT ADVISORY: 18 January 2023 – R0003

A Brock University expert says Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov’s refusal to take part in the team’s annual LGBTQ+ Pride night celebration raises questions about the influence players have over team- and league-wide initiatives.

While Provorov cited his religion as the reason he did not take part in the Jan. 17 celebration, Assistant Professor of Sport Management Taylor McKee said there were deeper issues involved.

“The framing of this issue as one of religious expression is a false dichotomy, largely because such freedoms do not exempt any one individual from the repercussions of that expression,” McKee said. “Perhaps the most troubling aspect of these events is not Provorov’s refusal. Instead, it is the Flyers’ inaction when this expression conflicted with the stated goals of the team and organization that is most disconcerting. As a result, he has already been reframed as a martyr in certain comment sections and opinion pieces, despite the lack of formal punishment.”

In spite of Provorov’s boycott, McKee said the individual actions of players can also make a positive difference when attempting to make their sports more inclusive.

“When it comes to further progress regarding inclusivity, perhaps one barrier many professional sports teams face is a lack of genuine understanding regarding the marginalized communities being served by many professional sport initiatives,” he said. “Empathetic relationships to these communities can be cultivated if players, including the many Flyers players who wore Pride-themed warmup shirts and met with 50 members of the local LGBTQ+ community, are willing to actually engage with the issues promoted by teams.”

With the actions of players sometimes indistinguishable from team initiatives, McKee said players have more power than ever to promote their own interests.

“We are starting to understand players as not simply league employees, but as partners in growing the game,” he said. “Similarly, they also have the agency to undercut any league-wide initiatives through their own actions or stated rebuttals. This new era, aptly entitled the ‘player empowerment movement,’ endows any individual player’s actions with significantly more meaning than in previous eras of professional sport.”

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Doug Hunt, Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Brock University or 905-941-6209

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