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Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov boycotts Pride Night event

The NHL veteran said he wanted to "stay true to myself and my religion" in refusing to take part in the LGBTQ event.
Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Ivan Provorov before a face-off during second period NHL game against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 5, 2022, in Ottawa, Canada.
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov before a faceoff of a game the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa on Nov. 5.Richard A. Whittaker / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images file

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov refused to participate in pregame warmups Tuesday ahead of his team's Pride Night celebration, citing religious objections.

The Flyers donned Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape as they warmed up for their game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Provorov said his Russian Orthodox faith precluded him from taking part in the LGBTQ event.

"I respect everybody. I respect everybody's choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That's all I'm going to say," Provorov told reporters after the game.

He then snapped at a reporter who asked whether his refusal to warm up had any impact on the game.

"Did you not hear what I just said? Can you respect that?" Provorov testily responded.

While Flyers coach John Tortorella called the team's Pride Night event "a great night," he also defended Provorov's refusal to participate.

"With Provy, he's being true to himself and to his religion," Tortorella said, using Provorov's nickname. "This has to do with his beliefs and his religion. It's the one thing I respect about Provy. He's true to himself."

There was no consideration of benching Provorov over the pregame boycott, Tortorella said. Provorov skated a team-high 22 minutes and 45 seconds in Tuesday night's game.

“The Philadelphia Flyers organization is committed to inclusivity and is proud to support the LGBTQ+ community,” the team said in a statement after the game. “Many of our players are active in their support of local LGBTQ+ organizations, and we were proud to host our annual Pride Night again this year. The Flyers will continue to be strong advocates for inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community.”

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who backs the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine, said last year that Russia must resist liberal foreigners who support “gay parades.”

Putin has cynically and successfully co-opted the Russian Orthodox Church and turned gay rights into a worldwide culture war issue, said Fordham University theology professor Aristotle Papanikolaou.

So even if Provorov, 26, doesn't harbor anti-gay sentiments, he might feel pressure to expound such rhetoric, said Papanikolaou, who specializes in the study of orthodox theology.

"If he has a home in Russia, a family in Russia, he may not have much choice," Papanikolaou said Wednesday.

Provorov is in his seventh season with the Flyers, who are struggling in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and could miss the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Provorov scored a career-high 17 goals in 2017-18 and was considered an up-and-coming talent who'd someday be in the running for a Norris Trophy, the NHL's annual award for its best defenseman.

While he's still among Philadelphia's best blueliners, Provorov hasn't been able to capture his early-career form in recent seasons for the downtrodden Flyers.