The You Can Play Project has found itself in hot water after defending the actions of Ivan Provorov on Thursday afternoon, stating on Twitter, "There is also room (and must be) for those who do not wish to participate as an ally,” in a since-deleted tweet.
The controversy started when the Philadephia Flyers defenseman decided against taking the ice for the team’s warmup before their game against the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 17. Given that it was the Flyers’ Pride Night in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, special warmup jerseys were to be worn, which Provorov refused, citing his Russian Orthodox beliefs.
Provorov still dressed and played, logging a game-high 22:45 minutes of ice time on the night, much to the dismay of fans and activists across the hockey world.
"I respect everybody's choices," Provorov said after the game. "My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That's all I'm going to say."
You Can Play’s main goal is to “ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and fans.” It was founded in 2012 when 21-year-old hockey player Brendan Burke—son of Pittsburgh Penguins President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke—passed away in a car accident. The project has been partners with the National Hockey League since 2013.
Despite the controversial tweet, You Can Play’s tone was very different immediately following the Flyers’ game, as the ordeal drew attention away from what was otherwise a successful evening.
"This wasn't just about a player and a jersey on a patch of ice,” said the group’s Chief Operating Officer Kurt Weaver. “Visibility and proximity is what breeds understanding and inclusion, and those things were negatively impacted by this."
Allyship is a vital aspect of the LGBTQ+ community as discrimination, prejudice, and persecution are still prevalent not just in sports, but in everyday life. Not presenting oneself as an ally is—at the very least—is a show of indifference to the treatment that so many queer and trans athletes are forced to endure on a constant basis.
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