The Russian Sabers player will not participate in the Pride night warm-up – KGET 17

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – Ilya Lyubushkin is citing the Kremlin’s anti-gay law and fear of retribution back home in Russia for choosing not to participate in the Buffalo Sabres’ pregame warmups at the team’s Pride Night, when players are expected to wear rainbows -Coloured jerseys in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

The team announced Lubuškin’s decision on Monday. Lyubushkin is from Moscow, where he has family and visits regularly in the off-season.

The 28-year-old defenseman is expected to play Monday night against Montreal even though he did not participate in warmups. Other players plan to use Pride tape on their sticks in addition to wearing rainbow jerseys. The Sabers as an organization are so intent on promoting Pride Night that they changed their social media avatar to show their logo surrounded by a rainbow outline.

“We continue to advocate for underrepresented groups in hockey and hope that our Pride Night, like many others around the league, will spark meaningful conversations and encourage support for the LGBTQIA+ community,” the team said in a statement.

“Our team strongly believes that one way to get support is to wear Pride jerseys and use Pride armbands in warm-ups,” the team said. Without specifically mentioning Ljubuškin, the Sabers added: “We are aware of the general threats to certain players and understand their decision to forego the risk.”

Sabers captain Kyle Okposo, whose father is from Nigeria and faced discrimination for being black after immigrating to Minnesota, defended his teammate by citing the importance of celebrating Pride night.

“We support ‘Boosh’ (Lyubushkin) in this room and we want to make sure he is comfortable and respect his decisions,” Okposo said.

“I have empathy for my teammate, for Boosh in the situation he’s in, but think about it: if there’s a closeted gay member of the team, you have to have empathy for that person in that situation,” he said. “We have to understand that and that’s part of acceptance, and that’s why we want to be accepted.”

Okposo also echoed what he told The Associated Press last week when he said he was sensitive to the concerns of the Russian players because “we honestly can’t understand, because we weren’t there.”

It’s not just Russian players who skipped warmups that have brought the NHL’s pride nights into the spotlight in recent months.

Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers, James Reimer of the San Jose Sharks and Eric and Marc Staal of the Florida Panthers refused to participate in warmups in Pride jerseys, citing religious beliefs, while the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks chose to players don’t wear at all. Reimer and the Staal brothers are Canadian.

The Blackhawks, like Lyubushkin, cited a law passed last year in Russia that expanded restrictions on support for LGBTQ+ rights in the country.

The Florida Panthers – whose starting goaltender is Russian Sergei Bobrovsky – continued with plans to wear pride-themed jerseys Thursday night before their home game against Toronto. Bobrovsky participated.

Sabers coach Don Granato said he left the discussion and decision up to his players on how to handle Pride night.

“It’s been nice for our group to really embrace an event like this and have a lot of meaningful conversations, even going as far as what’s going on around the world — across the U.S. and around the world — and actually talking (about) more than hockey.” , Granato said. “I think the authenticity of our group is a really positive thing about the event that we’re excited to have tonight.”

Okposo said what he thought was important was that the Sabers players participated in discussions about a sensitive topic.

“I think it’s something that as a society as a whole we’re still struggling with, and as a hockey community, we’re still struggling,” Okposo said. “But we’re getting better. And we’re going to continue to have these conversations and we’re going to continue to improve. But it’s extremely important to have this night tonight.”


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