A Christian goaltender for the San Jose Sharks, James Reimer, boycotted pregame warmups over the weekend, saying the team’s decision to wear NHL pride-themed jerseys went against the teachings of the Bible and his “personal convictions.”
Canadian James Reimer, 35, did not play in Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders after the team released a statement on his behalf in which he said that while he has “no hate in my heart for anyone,” he would not “endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life.”
As part of a weeklong series of events that the team says “continue a long-standing commitment of allyship with the LGBTQIA+ community,” San Jose players wore special jerseys for Sharks Pride Night that are designed by Houyee Chow, a queer artist from San Jose. The jerseys, featuring a Pride crest and a “Love Wins” patch, were to be auctioned off after the game for charity to raise funds for Adolescent Counseling Services.
Reimer said the Pride Night jerseys conflict with his Christian beliefs. He did not play Saturday.
“For all 13 years of my NHL career, I have been a Christian, not just in title but in how I choose to live my life daily. I have a personal faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sins and, in response, asks me to love everyone and follow Him.
“I have no hate in my heart for anyone, and I have always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect and kindness. In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life.”
Reimer added that he also believes “the [LGBT] community, like all others, should be welcomed in all aspects of the game of hockey.”
Reimer, who is in his second year in San Jose, started discussions with the team regarding Pride Night almost a year ago. The team has publicly supported his decision not to participate in warmups.
“We 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,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”
Reimer’s decision comes after months of NHL teams and players opting not to acknowledge Pride Night during warmups this season.
The Sharks’ pride night event, which was heavily promoted on their social media channels, involved players wearing specially designed rainbow-tinged jerseys, the unveiling of an intersex rainbow flag, and, according to a promotional video, a drag queen performance.
As part of the Sharks’ social media efforts, the team promoted indigenous traditions such as the North Peigan tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Montana and Alberta, Canada, which holds to a third gender, and a “respected third gender in Zapotec cultures in Oaxaca, Mexico” known as the muxe gender.
The team’s social media content also cited the Trevor Project, an LGBT advocacy group that has research briefs that correlate religious beliefs with higher rates of suicide among LGBT-identified people, a claim that has frequently been disputed.
The event was part of the NHL’s “Hockey Is For Everyone” initiative, which aims to leverage “the game of hockey — and the League’s global influence — to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities.”
In a separate statement on March 18, the Sharks also acknowledged “the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” an apparent reference to Reimer.
Reimer’s decision to boycott the event marked the second time this season that an NHL player has refused to participate in a league pride event.
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In January, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov did not participate in the pregame skate because he refused to wear the team’s LGBTQ+ Pride Night warmup jersey “to stay true to myself and my religion,” which he identified as Russian Orthodox.
While Provorov didn’t participate in the pride festivities, he joined his team members on the ice after the warmups and helped the Flyers top the Anaheim Ducks.
“I respect everybody, and I respect everybody’s choices,” Provorov, a Russian Orthodox Christian, told reporters after the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”
The Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers both indicated they would wear special jerseys on their Pride Nights — the Wild announcing a charity auction for them, the Rangers sending an announcement to season-ticket holders — only to opt out of wearing them before their games.
“Some guys don’t do the tape and some guys do. (The tape) is not as mandatory or in your face. So when it comes to jerseys, then it’s definitely more of a decision and it kind of amounts to something like this if you choose not to wear the jersey,” Reimer said after practice. “When I saw other teams starting to wear jerseys, I knew that would intersect with my Christian faith.”
Reimer is an unrestricted free agent this summer and acknowledged that his decision could impact his future in the market.
“I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t something that crossed my mind honestly,” Reimer said. “I’m sure there’s people in management or ownership that won’t look favorably on this. At the same time, I hope that there’s another handful of people in management or ownership that respect me for standing up for what I believe in and that’s a big part of who I am.”
Reimer has appeared in 35 games for the Sharks, going 10-17-7 with an .895 save percentage and a 3.26 goals-against average. He previously played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes.