Former nba Player Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of North America’s four major sports leagues, spoke this week about the recent wave of NHL players and teams opting out of Pride Night, saying that «Religion should not be a cause for division.» .»
In an interview with The Athletic published Monday, Collins discusses a variety of topics, including the recent controversy surrounding the National Hockey League, where several teams and individual players have chosen not to hold their respective Pride Night festivities this season.
«I’ve seen from afar some of the stories that have come to light,» Collins said when asked for her opinion on this issue.
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«I’ll say this: My grandmother was the most religious person I’ve ever known. She’s a black woman, southern, from northern Louisiana… imagine an old black woman with a Bible in one hand and three belts in the other. (Laughter) As religious as she was, it was always about love. As a disciplinarian, it was always about love.»
At the beginning of this year, philadelphia flyers Defender Ivan Provorov, a Russian Orthodox, said he chose not to participate in pregame warmups during the team’s January Pride Night to «remain true» to himself and his religion.
«I respect everyone and I respect everyone’s choices,» he told reporters at the time. «My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.»
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Since then, a number of players and teams have made similar decisions: some Russian players opted out for fear of reprisals in their home country.
In March, San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer cited his «belief in Christ» and brothers Eric and Marc Staal, who play for the Florida Panthers, said they believe «wearing a Gay Pride jersey goes against our Christian beliefs.»
«Religion should not be a reason for division, to justify any kind of inequality or to not be able to accept someone for who they are,» Collins told The Athletic. “When I told my grandmother, and she was the family member he was most nervous around, she said, ‘Baby, it’s about love.’ She said, ‘Jesus taught me to love.’ It’s about bringing people together. I think that’s what religion should be about. It’s unfortunate when people aren’t like that and try to use religion as a way to divide.»
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Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the backlash in late March, suggesting it was the first of its kind and «it’s something we’ll have to look at in the offseason.»
Collins, 44, played most of his career with the New Jersey Networks after being drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 18th overall pick in 2001. He played for multiple teams and, in 2013, came out as gay.
After returning to the Nets in 2014, he became the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major North American sports leagues.