James Reimer is as nice an NHL player as I’ve met.
We, the local media, voted him the Sharks Media Good Guy last year.
Reimer also, in my opinion – and I know he will disagree – just committed an act of hate by refusing to wear the San Jose Sharks’ Pride jersey for Sharks Pride Night.
Both things can be true.
“I have no hate in my heart for anyone, and I have always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect and kindness,” Reimer said in the statement announcing his decision. “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 and I obviously don’t agree with what constitutes hate, but that’s not the point of all this.
All this a reminder, actually. It’s a reminder once again that we really don’t know these players.
That goes for fans and media.
We see them, in theory, at their best, on the ice and in short bursts of time in the locker room.
Some reporters might also talk on the phone or text or grab a drink with a player. But for the most part, we don’t really know them.
But the narratives? So-and-so is the best guy. He’s incredible.
Are you sure?
Beware the narratives, good or bad.
As it turns out, Reimer might be nice, but he’s not the nicest guy. He wasn’t nice enough to wear a rainbow jersey for 15 minutes to help make a large, often marginalized section of the fanbase feel just a little more welcome.
But he’s not some embodiment of pure evil either.
People are, it’s no great revelation, complicated.
Anyway, this isn’t about me, despite how I started this editorial. I’m still processing what happened today, so writing what I just wrote helps.
This isn’t about Reimer either, even though he’s the headline.
I feel, No. 1, for those in the LGBTQIA+ community who are reminded once again that they are not entirely welcome in hockey.
It’s not just one player. It’s not an isolated incident.
It’s Reimer, Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, and Minnesota Wild – and on the other side, there are leaders like Scott Laughton and Jon Merrill and the San Jose Sharks who do back Pride Night.
It’s a confusing message for such a fan, I think? But that’s the reality, and I’d get if any LGBTQIA+ hockey fan wanted to exit this space where you don’t know where the players, the teams, and the league truly stand on the core of your human being.
It’s okay, says one hand reaching out to you. It’s not okay, says another hand slapping your face.
I give Reimer credit for standing in there and taking about 15 minutes of questions this morning. Provorov, his forerunner, took about one question on the topic, and then told Flyers media that he wanted to talk only hockey.
Reimer could’ve answered more questions though, but San Jose Sharks PR pulled him after about 20 minutes.
There were still pertinent questions, such as…
The Bible says a lot of things: It says you should rest on Sunday and not eat shellfish, among other things. Why evoke the Bible here, James?
(Reimer, by the way, has played three times on Sunday so far this season.)
What would you say to a LGBTQIA+ fan who you’ve now made feel unwelcome in the sport? You preach love, but your reference point is a book that calls homosexuality an “abomination”.
In the LGBTQIA+ community, trans have been the most targeted recently. What are your thoughts on trans?
I’m sure my colleagues had more questions too.
The Smallest Act
I get this is Reimer’s choice and it’s a free country.
I don’t like his choice, but I do support his right to make it.
I’m not calling for Reimer to get “cancelled” or have his NHL career cut short strictly because of this.
I believe, in America, that you have that right to express your opinion more or less, short of advocating out-and-out violence.
But I don’t understand why Reimer is participating in tonight’s game at all.
I’m not even saying to officially suspend him for expressing his beliefs. I understand there would be CBA concerns with that anyway.
But at the bare minimum, Reimer should be healthy scratched on a night that the organization claims is about Pride. If the San Jose Sharks organization is trying to make a statement about Pride Night, best you can, present a united front on this one night. Having a dissenting player play – or back up, be on the bench – diminishes the message.
There isn’t any reason that I know for Reimer to be in the building on a night that he specifically doesn’t want to participate in.
It’s the smallest act.
But small acts, good or bad, do add up to something.
Take a marginalized LGBTQIA+ community, it’s death by a thousand cuts, I suspect?
These small acts, these slaps of the face – Reimer sitting on the bench tonight, the Rangers and Wild pulling out of their Pride jersey commitments last second, and so on – they never seem to end.
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