The Chicago Blackhawks have decided not to wear their Pride Night warmup jerseys before Sunday's game against the Vancouver Canucks due to concerns about Russia's new anti-LGBTQ+ laws, per Mark Lazerus of The Athletic.
The decision to not wear the jerseys did not come from the players, per Lazerus' report. Instead, it was an "organizational decision" to protect Russian players from repercussions in their home country.
Chicago current has three players — Philipp Kurashev, Nikita Zaitsev, and Anton Khudobin — who have Russian heritage. Under Russia's ant-gay laws, those players or their families could face discipline for openly supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Blackhawks released a statement on the decision in which the team reiterated the importance of constantly working to make the game of hockey more inclusive.
"The Chicago Blackhawks organization is proud to continue its annual Pride Night celebration, an evening — alongside year-round efforts — fueled by partnership and LGBTQIA+ community engagement," the team said in its statement. "Together, our activities will focus on fostering conversation and more equitable spaces in our pursuit to make hockey more inclusive. We do not condone anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, and we stand firmly with the community.
"While we know game day celebrations like these are an important way we can use our platform to bring visibility, it is the work we do together 365 days a year that can create a huge impact in ensuring all our colleagues, fans and communities feel welcomed and safe within our sport."
The Blackhawks are now the third team, along with the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild, to scrap plans to wear Pride Night warmup jerseys. Per a previous report from The Athletic, Chicago is not alone in its concern that Russian players who wear Pride Night jerseys will face consequences when they return.
Just a few days before the Blackhawks' decision, openly gay Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop released a statement saying he was "disappointed" by the diminished support for Pride Nights this season.