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Chicago Blackhawks opt out of 'Pride Night' jerseys, citing safety concerns for Russian players

Image courtesy @replay_madness / Twitter

The Chicago Blackhawks are yet another NHL team to decline wearing "pride"-themed jerseys for the 2023 season, citing safety concerns for their Russian players, according to the New York Post.

The Blackhawks are the fourth team to decline wearing such jerseys, behind the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Minnesota Wild. Multiple sports outlets are citing anonymous sources that state the team is doing so to protect Russian players.

The Athletic says that the move was made by “team management and security officials” and not the players.

Russia has laws against the spread of certain views, which make it illegal to "spread ‘propaganda’ about ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ in all media, including social, advertising and movies," according to the New York Times.

“We do not condone anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, and we stand firmly with the community,” the Blackhawks organization said in a statement, according to a writer from the Athletic.

“While we know gameday 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 true impact in ensuring all of our colleagues, fans and communities feel welcomed and safe within our sport," the statement adds.

The Blackhawks have several players on their roster who could potentially run into problems, including Moscow-born defenseman Nikita Zaitsev.

Goalie Anton Khudobin is a Kazakhstani-born Russian, and forward Philipp Kurashev was born in Davos, Switzerland, but holds Russian citizenship and is the son of a former professional hockey player.

As well, Canadian-born Boris Katchouk holds Canadian and Russian citizenship, and his mother was an Olympian for the Soviet Union.

However, other Russian NHL players have worn similar jerseys in the same season, including San Jose Sharks players Alexander Barabanov and Nikolai Knyzhov and Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Just two months prior to the Blackhawks' decision, Ivan Provorov, Russian-born player for the Philadelphia Flyers, cited his Russian Orthodox beliefs as the reason why he didn't want to wear a "pride" warm-up jersey, with San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer following suit in March 2023 because of his Christian faith.

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