Rangers face backlash after tepid response to Pride Night change

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The Rangers scrapped plans to wear rainbow-themed warmup jerseys for Friday’s “Pride Night” at Madison Square Garden, prompting confusion and disappointment from the LGBTQ community, who felt slighted by the team’s sudden and surprising change of heart, reversing course with little in the way of explanation. Responding to what many perceived as a hurtful snub, the Rangers addressed the controversy in a subsequent press release. However, the Rangers’ attempt at damage control only made matters worse, deflecting criticism by offering a vague non-apology, barely acknowledging the controversy while showing zero accountability, further distracting from what was supposed to be a night of celebration and unity.

The Flyers faced similar backlash earlier this month when Ivan Provorov declined to wear a Pride jersey during pregame warmups, citing his religion as a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Staging their seventh Pride Night in team history, Friday’s festivities at MSG included distributing fanny packs to fans, rainbow lighting displays both in and outside the arena and a stirring rendition of the national anthem performed by Broadway actor Michael James Scott, who is openly gay. Andre Thomas, who serves as co-chair of NYC Pride, was also on hand for the ceremonial puck drop.

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Despite being listed prominently on the team’s promotional calendar, beat reporter Mollie Walker said the two players she spoke to were unaware of any plans to wear rainbow uniforms or partake in any other Pride Night events. Larry Brooks, a colleague of Walker’s at the New York Post, petitioned the league’s deputy commissioner and chief legal officer Bill Daly for clarity, asking if the NHL had discouraged teams from proceeding with Pride Night following Philadelphia’s recent PR nightmare. Daly issued an adamant denial, insisting there had been no such conversations.

The Rangers wore camouflage for Military Appreciation Night earlier this season while also commissioning Ecuadorian artist Mar Figueroa to design Hispanic Heritage jerseys, which the team wore in October. It’s unclear what made the Rangers shy away from their Pride Night threads, though it obviously didn’t sit well with fans, who expected better from a team and organization that claims to value equality and inclusion.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images