It really only takes one person’s courage to inspire a domino effect. Everyone is scared to be the first to divert from groupthink, but many times, once the brave soul speaks up, there’s almost a tangible sigh of relief that can be felt from others. No, not everyone is okay with the groupthink.
This appears to be exactly what’s happening in the NHL (National Hockey League).
In January, the New York Rangers bucked the status quo and decided to ditch the pre-planned “pride” themed warmup jerseys for “Pride Night.”
Clearly, forcing the team to wear jerseys that apparently contradict personal and/or religious values was not a priority for the Rangers. Predictably, members of the media pounced. The Washington Stand reported at the time:
Sports Illustrated accused the Rangers of “bungling” Pride Night. The Athletic’s Steve Buckley wailed that the “retreat on Pride Night” would send a “somber message to younger, closeted players.” And the New York Post’s Mollie Walker accused the team of ruining “a beautiful celebration of inclusivity,” when, ironically, the Rangers just did the most inclusive thing yet.
Yet, the title of that Washington Stand article ended up being quite prescient: “NY Rangers’ Decision to Yank Pride Jerseys Could Upend Sports’ Status Quo”
Upend the status quo, they did.
Just a couple of weeks later, a second NHL team, the New York Islanders, made a similar announcement: the Islanders would not be donning the “pride” jerseys for “Pride Night.” The Washington Stand cited the original New York Post report, commenting that “the Islanders have an organization-wide policy against specialized uniforms, with the exception of Hockey Fights Cancer, military appreciation nights, and Saint Patrick’s Day. But unlike previous years, when players were urged to use rainbow-themed equipment, the team scrapped even the option of things like Pride tape.”
Then, a third domino fell.
On March 7, the Minnesota Wild “who’d planned to have skaters wear the rainbow-themed gear for warm-ups made an ‘organizational decision’ to stick to routine team jerseys — building on a narrative that’s been hard for professional sports to ignore,” according to The Washington Stand.
This show of courage actually began with just one individual – not the New York Rangers.
Before the Rangers, Islanders, and Wild made their announcements, a single NHL player stood alone: Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers.
In early January, his team actually did participate in the “Pride Night” attire during warmups – jerseys and rainbow tape – but he respectfully opted out, and his coach backed him. Provorov, an Orthodox Christian from Russia, said, “I respect everybody, and 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 didn’t make a huge fuss, nor did his coach. He simply stated he was opting out, then focused on hockey.
It turns out one man’s respectful but firm commitment to his values was enough to inspire entire organizations to remove themselves from the groupthink.
That’s all it takes: one. One person who will publicly stay true to themselves and their values.
How can you be that person in Washington?