Sharks Pride Night isn’t about Pride anymore.
At least in terms of narrative, after James Reimer announced today that he will not be wearing a Pride warm-up jersey for Sharks Pride Night tonight.
The San Jose Sharks had announced their Pride Night initiatives earlier this week, but there was some question whether every Shark would participate.
In past seasons, around the NHL and with the Sharks, there had been Pride Nights and Pride jerseys worn with no significant opposition.
But that got turned on its head in January, when Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers declined to wear a Pride jersey, citing his Russian Orthodox religious beliefs. Then, the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild reneged on commitments to wear Pride jerseys before their Pride Nights.
Reimer, following Provorov, is the second NHL player to openly decline wearing a Pride jersey.
He is the only Sharks player who will not wear the Pride jersey in warm-ups tonight and will not participate in warm-ups. Reimer will be active as Kaapo Kahkonen’s back-up.
The San Jose Sharks and Reimer released statements this morning, this captain Logan Couture, head coach David Quinn, and Reimer took questions from the media.
These are their press conferences in their entirety.
Logan Couture, on Reimer’s refusal to participate in Pride Night:
Every individual has a choice and he has made his. The rest of us are going to be wearing the jersey. I think this organization sees this as an extremely important night. And I think a lot of guys in the room are very excited to go out and wear the jersey and celebrate it. I think that hockey really is for everyone. It is an inclusive sport. We want it to be that way. We’re looking forward to going out there and putting the jersey on and playing a game.
Couture, on why it’s personally important for him and the rest of his San Jose Sharks teammates to wear the Pride jerseys:
I can just speak for myself. Every individual is different. Every individual has different beliefs. There’s a lot of guys on a hockey team and that’s the way that the world is, I guess. For me, I’ve always enjoyed these types of games, these types nights. We usually have one every year here in San Jose, at least to my knowledge. I do think that hockey is at its best when it includes everyone. Everyone gets to enjoy this incredible game that we play. It really is a lot of fun to play. So I think every person should have the opportunity to play.
Couture, on how he found out about Reimer’s decision:
It was discussed. He brought it up to the guys and that was basically it. We talked about it just really quickly. I think he put out a statement, probably along the same lines of what he said (to us).
David Quinn, on Reimer’s refusal to participate in Pride Night:
Everybody’s entitled to how they feel and obviously our organization has been pretty clear on how we feel about supporting the LGBT community and about inclusion and acceptance. We respect James’s decision just as I know he respects our decision to support the community and embrace tonight.
Quinn, on if there was any thought to have Reimer sit out the game:
No, that was never discussed.
Quinn, on when he found out about Reimer’s decision:
We had talked about it a couple days ago. James and I had a conversation. So that was kind of how the whole thing came to be. He told me his views and I respected him and obviously he’s clear on how we feel as an organization and so he’s very respectful of us in our night and our support of the LGBT community and anybody else who wants to partake in hockey. Like I said, we respect his individual feelings as well.
Quinn, on what kind of message this sends:
I think this is a topic that … I don’t want to say it is subjective, but just because James isn’t wearing a jersey, doesn’t mean he’s not accepting of the community. People feel differently and like I said, I don’t want to get too deep to it from James’s standpoint. I’ll let James speak for itself. But I’ve got a lot of respect for James Reimer.
Reimer’s statement after his official statement:
Something that I want to kind of reiterate, you guys can ask me and whatnot. You can check me on it. But you know what I’m like, my reputation. I feel like I’ve treated you guys [in the media] with respect and dignity. That’s how I treat everyone.
As far as teammates, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, I treat them with the same kindness and respect. When a guy walks in the room, I don’t ask him his life story.
My faith said, like I said before, everyone has worth and value and I love them. When a guy gets traded to a team, often I’ll ask the people in charge, what’s their number? So I can send them a text. Welcome to the team, ask if they need anything. I don’t do that based off what they believe or what they identify with.
I do that because I’m taught to love and to care for people. That’s who I am.
But the counter side or the other side is, I just can’t publicly or personally endorse something that goes against my beliefs. That’s kind of where I’m at so far.
Maybe one story to help bridge the gap or to understand? I have lots of awesome teammates, and even in the room here, we have guys that believe different things.
But in Toronto, Nazem Kadri as a teammate, loved him to death. I don’t know exactly the extent of his faith, his Muslim faith. But he’s a Muslim.
I think you could talk to him and ask him if I treated him any different. I love him. I competed with him on the ice, we joked around, we did life together.
And yet, people would understand if I wouldn’t be able to wear a Muslim jersey in warm-ups, promoting the Muslim faith, being a Christian and a follow in Christ. He himself would fully understand that.
I know this can be confusing and incredibly complex at times. But end of the day, I love everyone and the people in this community.
Again, if I had a gay teammate, I hope I would be the first one to shake his hand when he comes in and treat him like I would any other teammate.
Some perspective for me, or some context for you guys, this wasn’t an easy decision for me. I’m not scared to stand up for my faith in Christ. But I wrestle with it because I know the initial reaction of putting out a statement like this or showing up to warm-ups and not wearing the jersey can come across as offensive or a slap in the face.
I love them and that initial reaction is not something that I intend and that I don’t like happening. But again for me, obviously, it goes back to my faith and the depth of who I am, how I have shown over my career and over my life, and I hope to continue to show that. I’m by no means perfect in any way.
But I will show that I truly do love and care. I just can’t publicly and personally endorse that.
Reimer, on if he would have participated in Pride Night last year (SJHN note: Reimer was injured at the time of the San Jose Sharks’ Pride Night last year on Mar. 5, 2022):
It’s tough … so what other teams have done in the past is, some teams have done stick tape or something like that, right? When it becomes a jersey, it’s a little more … some guys don’t do the tape, some guys do. (The tape) is not as, I don’t know what the right word is, but mandatory or in your face or whatever. So when it comes to jerseys, then it’s definitely more of a decision and it kind of amounts to something like this if you choose not to wear the jersey. Then we’re kind of back to that question when I saw teams starting to wear jerseys, I knew that would intersect with my Christian faith.
Reimer, on why he refused to wear a Pride jersey:
It’s something that I saw coming up last year. There’s a bunch of teams starting to wear them and I just came to the conviction through my faith that it went against what I believe the Bible says. I don’t want to really go into too much detail about the behind the scenes stuff. But it’s something that I tried to do my due diligence and just came to the fact that the best way to stand up for what I believe in was just to not wear the jersey and then to try and make this as loving and least offensive as possible.
Reimer, on what he sees when he sees the Pride jersey and the Rainbow symbol:
I get what the message is. I think people are trying to show support to the community and I’m sure people in the community feel marginalized. So it’s people trying to come along (with) them in a public way and support them. For me, to some extent, that’s what you want to do is you want to love them, but where I keep reiterating what I’m saying is where it intersects for a Christian and the way I personally and the people close to me in my life interpret the bible is you love them, but you can’t support the activity or lifestyle.
Reimer, on people thinking differently about him after this:
At the end of the day, you can’t worry too much about what other people think about you. If you take the analogy back to hockey, people think I suck as a goalie in some games and some people love me right? I have played long enough to know that you can only trust the people in your circle, what they say about you. When someone you trust says you didn’t play well, you take it to heart right. When someone you don’t trust says it, you kind of just let it slide off your back. So with this the premise is similar. The only difference is that they can think differently of me and that’s their own opinion, or, they’re free to say and think whatever they want. That is 100 percent their right. I just hope that deep down or to some extent they just understand that I truly do love everyone that I come into contact with and I fail miserably sometimes. But I strive to live a life like Christ where you love people. And I hope that they know that there’s a God that loves them and John 3:16 – (he) sent his son to die and that there’s a deep love for him.
Reimer, on what’s different about his Christianity as opposed to other Christians who have worn Pride jerseys:
Honestly, I can’t speak for everybody else’s heart. There’s different religions. There’s different beliefs. There’s guys who don’t have beliefs but are indifferent. Guys who do have, and the only thing that I can speak for and I’m accountable for is my own heart and how the spirit convicts me when I learn and try and understand the Bible. That’s the best way I can answer the question.
Reimer, on if he’s worried about how this stand will affect him in free agency this off-season:
I mean, I think I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t something that crossed my mind honestly. I’ll go back to what I said. This is not a stance that I was looking to make. I saw this happening and we started conversations almost a year ago with people in high places. Not because I’m ashamed of my faith, but because of certain consequences that could have for me or other people that feel this way. Those conversations happened, and here I am standing up for what I believe in. I’m sure there’s people in management or ownership that won’t look favorably on this. And I get that and I understand it and respect everyone’s right to think and believe whatever they want about me. But at the same time, I hope that there’s another handful of people in management and in ownership that respect me for standing up for what I believe in and that’s a big part of who I am. The people that know me well, every team knows that I give my all every day. That’s part of my personal convictions again, from the Bible, is to do everything with all your heart. When I go on the ice, I give it everything. When I go in the gym, I give it everything. When I go home, I give it everything. Yeah, this is something that people might fell negatively about. But my faith in Christ is who I am and that’s what makes me the competitor and the loyal teammate that I am to.
Reimer, on what the Bible says about homosexuality:
There’s a few instances in the Bible where it just mentions where sexuality and that certain things that it goes against God’s word. There’s definitely passages, and I don’t want to be too specific or too broad. I’ll just say there are there are a few passages, but at the same time, you have to understand that there are other things that the Bible says that aren’t good too, like that everyone knows agrees, slander and gossip. You go through murder whatever, there’s different things that like that people would say, Oh, wow, those are really bad, and someone says like, Oh, those aren’t so bad. You know what I mean? But they’re just things that, the first commandment is to love God, that’s the most important one, right? And so, when you love him, there’s certain things that you try and do, right? The only difference for a Christian is that there are no other nights that we would celebrate or are what asked me to personally endorse as other things, and so that’s why this gets obviously so much limelight now. If that makes any sense?
Special thanks to Corey Masisak and Max Miller for sharing their transcripts.
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