Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop says NHL took 'step back' for LGBTQ+ inclusion

Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop, the first openly gay player under NHL contract, said the league has taken "a step back for inclusion."

Prokop spoke out on social media late Monday night in light of recent events that have occurred on Pride Nights around the league.

Most recently, San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer declined to wear a Pride Night sweater during pregame warmups, citing his religious beliefs, and as a result did not participate with his teammates who wore them during the team's pregame skate Saturday.

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Reimer did not play in his team's loss to the New York Islanders.

"For all 13 years of my NHL career, I have been a Christian — not just in title but in how I choose to live my daily. I have a personal faith in Jesus Christ, who died on a cross for my sins and, in response, asks me to love everyone and to follow Him. I have no hate in my heart for anyone and I have always strived to treat everyone that I encounter with respect and kindness," Reimer said in a statement released by the Sharks.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov declined to wear a pride sweater and didn't take part in his team's pregame skate in January, he said, because he wants "to stay true to myself and my religion." The Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers both decided not to wear them before games earlier this season.


Prokop is a defenseman for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL.

"I share the disappointment in what feels like a step back for inclusion in the NHL," Prokop said in a statement on Twitter. "Pride nights and pride jerseys play an important role in promoting respect and inclusion in the LGBTQIA+ community, and it's disheartening to see some teams no longer wearing them or fully embracing their significance, while the focus of others has become about the players who aren't participating rather than the meaning of the night itself.

"Everyone is entitled to their own set of beliefs but I think it's important to recognize the difference between endorsing a community and respecting individuals within it. Pride nights are an essential step towards fostering greater acceptance and understanding in hockey, and I strongly believe that by prioritizing diversity and inclusion, we can create an environment where every player feels comfortable bringing their authentic selves to the game. As someone who aspires to play on an NHL team one day, I would want to enter the locker room knowing I can share all parts of my identity with my teammates.

"While there's still progress to be made before hockey is for everyone, I'm optimistic about the change we can achieve and am committed to being a part of it."

Prokop, 20, came out publicly on Instagram on July 19, 2021.


"I am no longer scared to hide who I am," the defenseman wrote. "Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay."

Prokop, a third-round pick by the Predators in 2020, made his sexuality public almost a month after Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib became the first active NFL player to publicly announce he is gay.

Prokop's news didn't come as a surprise to the Predators. He said informed the team more than a year before he was selected.

”We will support him unequivocally in the days, weeks, and years to come," Predators president and CEO Sean Henry said after Prokop was drafted. "A long-stated goal in our organization is equality for all, including the LGBTQ community, and it is important that Luke feels comfortable and part of an inclusive environment as he moves forward in his career.”


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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Predators prospect Luke Prokop says NHL took 'step back for inclusion'