Sharks’ James Reimer won’t wear Pride-themed warmup jersey, says it runs counter to religious beliefs
SAN JOSE — Sharks goalie James Reimer will not participate in pregame activities tonight, saying the Pride-themed jersey team members are planning to wear in support of the LGBTQIA+ community runs counter to his personal religious convictions.
Reimer, a devout Christian in his 13th season as an NHL goalie, said he came to the decision earlier this week. All other Sharks players are planning to wear the jerseys, team captain Logan Couture said Saturday.
The Sharks organization announced a host of activities that revolve around its Pride Night celebration, including wearing warmup jerseys with specific crest and patch artwork designed to show acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“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,” Reimer said Saturday afternoon. “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 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, 35, is not slated to play Saturday when the Sharks host the New York Islanders. Goalies who are not scheduled to start that night’s game still usually take part in the team’s pregame warmups.
The Sharks, in a statement, said, “As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic… As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”
Kurt Weaver, chief operations officer for the You Can Play Project, expressed disappointment with Reimer’s decision.
“Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” Weaver’s statement said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”
The mission statement of You Can Play is “to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and fans.” The organization, which has worked with the NHL for 11 years, was founded in memory of Brendan Burke, the son of longtime NHL executive Brian Burke.
Although Reimer’s reasoning was simple — “I just came to the conviction that it went against what I believe the Bible says” — he did not arrive at his decision easily.
“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,” he said.
Asked what is written in the Bible that would run contrary to wearing the Pride jersey, Reimer said, “there are a few instances in the Bible where it just mentions that the sexuality, that certain things, that it goes against the word, God’s word. There are definitely passages.”
Reimer’s decision comes on the heels of other NHL teams choosing not to wear Pride-themed jerseys after announcing plans to do so.
The Minnesota Wild decided as a team earlier this month to not wear Pride-themed jerseys in warmups. The New York Rangers also backed out of similar plans in January, soon after Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, also citing his religious beliefs, sat out warmups instead of wearing a Pride-themed jersey before a Jan. 17 game against the Anaheim Ducks.
Reports have indicated that Russian-born players in those markets might face repercussions from officials in their native country after Russia’s parliament approved a bill that expanded restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. The law bans the spreading of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.”
Reimer, though, is believed to be the first North American NHL player to openly object to wearing a Pride-themed jersey. Reimer is from Morweena, Manitoba.
Asked if he’s worried about backlash, Reimer said, “at the end of the day, you can’t worry too much about what other people think about you.
“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,” Reimer added. “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.
“I fail miserably sometimes. But I strive to live a life like Christ where you love people.”
Sharks coach David Quinn said he and Reimer talked about the decision on Thursday, adding that he never considered not dressing the veteran goalie for the game against the Islanders.
“This is a topic that is very, I don’t want to say subjective, but just because James isn’t wearing a jersey doesn’t mean he’s not accepting of the community,” Quinn said. “People feel differently. I don’t want to get too deep into it from James’s standpoint. I’ll let James speak for himself. But I’ve got a lot of respect for James Reimer.”