Woke hockey reporter suggests NHL player who refused to wear LGBTQ colors should return to Russia, fight Ukraine: ‘Go back where you feel more comfortable’

News & Politics

E.J. Hradek, senior reporter for the NHL Network, suggested during a Wednesday broadcast that Philadelphia Flyers player Ivan Provorov should return to Russia and even fight Ukraine after refusing to wear LGBTQ colors during a pregame warm-up this week for religious reasons.

What’s the background?

Provorov declined to skate before Tuesday’s “Pride Night” game since his teammates were wearing rainbow colors for their warm-up, ESPN reported. The 26-year-old defenseman told reporters after the Flyers’ 5-2 home win over the Anaheim Ducks that he intended “to stay true to myself and my religion,” the sports network said.

“I respect everyone,” he told reporters, adding that he’s Russian Orthodox. “I respect everybody’s choices.”

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What did Hradek have to say about Provorov?

During an “NHL Now!” broadcast, Hradek had a few ideas about what Provorov could do if he doesn’t want to take woke marching orders here in the U.S., including returning to Russia.

“Ivan Provorov can get on a plane any day he wants and go back to a place where he feels more comfortable, take less money, and get on with his life that way if it’s that problematic for him,” Hradek said.

The NHL Network reporter noted that Provorov “has been in North America for a long time” after having played two seasons in Manitoba, Canada, in the Western Hockey League and now playing in his seventh season for the Flyers.

“If this is that much of a problem for him to maybe assimilate into his group of teammates and in the community and here in this country, that’s okay — listen, you can feel any way you want. But the beauty is, if it bothers you that much, there’s always a chance to leave. Go back where you feel more comfortable,” Hradek continued, before suggesting that Provorov join in the Russian war against Ukraine. “I understand there’s a conflict of sorts going on over there; maybe get involved.”

OutKick said it reached out to the National Hockey League for comment regarding Hradek’s statements about Provorov but didn’t hear back.

How are folks reacting?

A number of Twitter commenters have more or less declared war against Hradek and his ideas. Some examples:

  • “‘Assimilate’ is a terrible choice of words. No one should be forced into wearing gay pride gear. Sounds a bit authoritarian, no?” one user said. “Coming from someone who is all for gay marriage.”
  • “You are such a douche for criticizing someone for sticking by their beliefs,” another commenter said. “It’s called being honorable; you should try it sometime.”
  • “Telling him to go back if he can’t assimilate into the USA? Do you feel same about those who come to the USA but never learn English? Should they go back to their county of origin?” another user wondered.
  • “The minute you punish/cancel those of differing viewpoints, you lose all credibility because when you take that step, it [shows] that your idea/concept is failing, and you can only ‘win’ by force,” another commenter said.
  • “Yes…berate others until they behave how you want. They can’t have an opinion. That’s the leftist way,” another user sarcastically pointed out.

Anything else?

ESPN writer Greg Wyshynski — who penned the sports network’s initial story about the controversy and also blastedProvorov on Twitter — wrote a follow-up piece about the NHL’s “social activism partner” You Can Play, which wants to “work with” Provorov after he “negatively impacted” Pride Night.

You Can Play COO Kurt Weaver told ESPN he’s disappointed by how the Flyers and coach John Tortorella handled Provorov’s refusal to wear the LGBTQ colors. Tortorella said he didn’t consider benching Provorov and respected his personal beliefs.

“The concept of ‘team’ can mean a lot of things. I think more coaches have to ask what that cohesion of a team means to them,” Weaver told the sports network. “At what point does a decision like this that a player wants to make cross over into basically not showing up for your job? I think [Tortorella] did what a coach needs to do, which is support his player’s decision. But I would hope that, behind the scenes, there’s some more direct conversations around what it means to be a teammate.”

Weaver also weighed in on Provorov’s faith as his reason for not visibly supporting the LGBTQ community.

“Players who do this sort of thing have a very short perspective on what it means. For me, religion is about charity and inclusion,” Weaver added to ESPN. “This wasn’t just about a player and a jersey on a patch of ice. What else was affected by this? Visibility and proximity is what breeds understanding and inclusion, and those things were negatively impacted by this. It’s disappointing to see that’s the outcome from this.”

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