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Chicago Blackhawks fans blast team for caving to Russian anti-LGBTQ law

Chicago Blackhawks fans accused the NHL team of being dictated to by Russia after it reversed its decision to wear Pride warmup jerseys at Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The hockey team decided to scrap wearing the jersey, which would have signed its support for the LGBTQ community, in order to protect its only Russian player, Nikita Zaitsev, after an expansion of his home country’s “gay propaganda law.”

“As a lifelong Blackhawks fan I am deeply disappointed! Although they are having other pride events, not wearing pride jerseys shows that they are weak and soft. They’re letting Russia dictate what they do! The Russian players can stay in the locker room ! @NHLBlackhawks stop the hate,” tweeted one fan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin first introduced the law in 2013 and outlawed the positive promotion of LGBTQ content or “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. But in December he updated the law to prevent the “propaganda” to all people and included banning talking to minors about transgender issues.

Those found to be breaching the law could be charged and face a fine up to $700 if a judge rules they should pay it.

The Blackhawks drew the ire of sports fans and pundits alike over the decision, including longtime fan Seth Stauffer, who used to write for the team’s fan website, Blackhawk Up.

“My reaction was disappointment… I know for a fact other Russian players from around the league have worn jerseys for their teams’ respective Pride nights, and so Chicago’s refusal just looks that much worse,” Stauffer told Newsweek.

“Professional sports are a cesspool of toxic masculinity, and the fact that so many people have come forward refusing to participate in events like these really shines a lot of how much farther everything has to go.”

Stauffer also took aim at the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone inclusivity campaign as “just a meaningless PR slogan.” The Blackhawks fan said his “biggest concern” was “the lack of response elsewhere in the hockey world.”

“The NHL is a business and as concerned with optics as any other business… However, it’s particularly striking that not a single organization that oversees youth hockey, at any level, really appears to be ready to come out and defend the rights of gay players,” Stauffer said.

“All of this has to start at the beginning of the sports journey, so it really is important that children are made to feel safe to play no matter who they are.”

He added there “was no better time than the present” for the game’s various institutions “to proclaim that ‘hockey is for everybody.'”

Newsweek contacted the NHL by email for comment.

The Blackhawks are not the only team to backtrack on donning Pride colors. The New York Rangers did not wear Pride warmup jerseys or stick tape in January, saying it supported players in expressing their individual beliefs. Then, players Ivan Provorov and James Reimer from the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks, respectively, both refused to wear their Pride jerseys in warmups earlier this month, both citing their religious beliefs as the reason.

However, in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis just signed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” into law, the Panthers—who also have a Russian player in goalie Sergei Bobrovsky—just boasted about wearing their Pride jerseys in Thursday’s match against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Proud to wear these beauties tonight. Love is love,” the team tweeted alongside images of the jersey.

LGBTQ advocacy group, Equality Illinois (EI), warned how the Blackhawks’ decision “to protect their players from homophobic laws in Russia is a reminder of how the long arm of homophobic leaders can reach all the way to Chicago.”

“We are all interconnected and attacks on LGBTQ+ people anywhere is a threat to LGBTQ+ people everywhere,” EI’s CEO Brian C. Johnson told Newsweek.

“The real question for us at Equality Illinois is how strong an ally is an institution. The Chicago Blackhawks have taken many steps recently to demonstrate their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.”

Johnson added: “We hope this example of the real and present danger LGBTQ+ people face across the globe encourages the Blackhawks—both the organization and the players—to become even more vocal and strident supporters of full equality.”

While the Blackhawks players would not be wearing the Pride jerseys at Sunday’s game, a spokesperson told Newsweek that it was “proud to continue its annual Pride Night celebration, an evening—alongside year-round efforts—fueled by partnership and LGBTQIA+ community engagement.”

Chicago Blackhawks fans accused the NHL team of being dictated to by Russia after it reversed its decision to wear Pride warmup jerseys at Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.

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