Some LGBTQ+ fans frustrated with Columbus Blue Jackets' trade acquisition of Ivan Provorov
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Some LGBTQ+ fans frustrated with Columbus Blue Jackets' trade acquisition of Ivan Provorov

Apr 17, 2023

Some LGBTQ+ fans and community members say they are disappointed in the Columbus Blue Jackets for acquiring defenseman Ivan Provorov, who refused to wear a Pride Night jersey in January when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Mack Stryker, a 24-year-old Blue Jackets fan who lives in Columbus, was one of many who turned to Twitter on Tuesday to express their displeasure. Stryker, who identifies as nonbinary and as a lesbian, told The Dispatch they’re gauging how much to support the team after this.

"What Provorov did wasn't a crime," Stryker said. "But when it goes against a league-wide effort to create a more inclusive environment, it's a bit disappointing, especially for LGBTQ community members like me. And it doesn't help I didn't like the terms of the deal anyways."

The Blue Jackets announced Tuesday they had acquired Provorov in a three-way trade with the Flyers and Los Angeles Kings.

Deal details: Columbus Blue Jackets add Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov in three-way trade

Provorov didn't participate in warmups on Jan. 17 because the rest of the Flyers wore special Pride Night jerseys and used rainbow-colored stick tape to support the LGBTQ+ community before a game.

Provorov, who is Russian Orthodox, said he chose to "stay true to myself and my religion," while not participating. His reasoning was met with criticism on social media at the time

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said this in defense of the decision to acquire Provorov:

"We’ve always been an organization that promotes inclusion and diversity and all those things," Kekalainen said, referring to the Blue Jackets' own promotional inclusion nights. "Hockey is for everyone, but we also respect freedom of opinion and freedom of choice. We’re not an organization that cancels anybody, so long as you’re a law-abiding citizen, and we have a long and good history on promoting all those things. Our organization supports inclusion and diversity, and we’re going to continue to do so."

Zac Boyer, director of community programs and marketing at Stonewall Columbus, an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ visibility and inclusion, told The Dispatch that CBJ leadership is making it clear who they align with.

In response to Kekalainen's comment, Boyer said, "No one is being ‘canceled’ when their values are in opposition to an employer standing in solidarity with a marginalized community; that's called sticking to your values as an organization."

Boyer said LGBTQ+ people are under attack in Ohio and across the country.

"Pride nights and other events that celebrate LGBTQ+ folks are more than a moment of celebration – if it's done with the right intent, you are saying you stand with us, but this solidarity needs follow through and actions that match," Boyer said. "By hiring a bigot and then doubling down with a statement like that speaks volumes to how truly out of touch CBJ leadership must be, otherwise they would see the cognitive dissonance of their actions."

Other CBJ fans also have reacted negatively on Twitter to the trade.

"I’ve got some serious thinking to do about my season tickets after this move," a Twitter user who goes by Rich R said, adding a Pride flag emoji in the tweet.

Another Twitter user going by Chris Skovron said, "Nice Pride month present, jerks. I’ll be finding a new rooting interest."

Twitter user Jo Valenine-Cooper asked, "So are LGBTQ+ folks like myself going to still be welcome at Nationwide Arena? Because this kind of feels like a bit of a setback."

Several people criticized the Blue Jackets for hiring Provorov as well as for the anticipated hiring of Mike Babcock as head coach.

Twitter user Iggy said, "First Babcock with horrible mental abuse of former players, now the homophobe who set the whole 'I’m not wearing a jersey because I’m a soft soy boy' movement across pathetic NHLers lmao. Get it together, these moves aren't making you any better.

Twitter user Jason Connelly said "#CBJ getting Babcock, a bully — and Provorov, the guy who refused to wear a Pride themed sweater — is really testing my dedication to supporting @BlueJacketsNHL and Jarmo."

Meanwhile, many other CBJ fans celebrated Provorov coming to Columbus.

Twitter user Bucket Hat Kyle, a cohost of a podcast about the Jackets called "CBJ Artillery," said "Love the Provorov deal."

Related: Columbus Blue Jackets and Mike Babcock: 3 things to know about the likely CBJ coach

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: LGBTQ+ fans react to Blue Jackets acquisition of Pride Night boycotter

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