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Wear the Jersey, Bigot

Why do Provorov’s critics feel the need to have a hockey player approve their behaviors and identities?

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers
Ivan Provorov (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images )

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Flyers hosted "Pride Night" at the Wells Fargo Center. To celebrate, the team invited a "non-binary" thirteen-year-old to beat its ceremonial drum. Players wore black jerseys with rainbow-colored numbers and used rainbow-taped sticks in warmups. Everyone at the arena was made to participate, save Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, who sat out the warmup period, and joined the team for the puck drop.

Asked about it postgame, Provorov cited his Russian Orthodox faith.

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"I respect everybody's choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That's all I'm going to say."

That was all his critics needed to hear. NHL Network's E.J. Hradek proposed Provorov go back to his native Russia and "get involved" in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The exegetes at Deadspin called Provorov's faith a "steaming pile of s***" and accused the defenseman of being "completely oblivious to what Jesus’s message actually was." Canadian broadcaster Sid Seixeiro said the NHL should have fined the Flyers $1 million, and, with a quivering voice, suggested Provorov had a disreputable personal life:

nothing scares me more than any human being who says, "I'm not doing this because of my religious beliefs." Because when you've looked in people's lives who normally say that publicly, you'd throw up at what you saw. You would throw up at what you saw.

It should go without saying that Jesus of Nazareth would not have been a fan of a night dedicated to the queen of all sins. And religious people's personal lives, and the extent to which they would make Sid Seixeiro "throw up," has nothing at all to do with the truth of their beliefs. Sinners are allowed to be Christians, too.

The contrast here is between Provorov, who was respectful and reticent in the postgame interview, and his critics, who have variously suggested that he be suspended from the NHL or die in a foreign war. Why the felt need to have an unwilling party approve of these identities, lifestyles, and behaviors? Why the need for constant affirmation? Is it to drown out a little voice inside that sounds like Ivan Provorov?

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