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Flyers' Provorov cites religion for sitting out warmups on Pride Night

Ivan Provorov boycotts Flyers' Pride Night during warmups over religion
Ivan Provorov boycotts Flyers' Pride Night during warmups over religion 01:00

PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) -- Ivan Provorov cited his Russian Orthodox religion as the reason why he chose not to participate in the Flyers' pre-game warmups Tuesday on Pride Night.

Provorov was absent from warmups when the Flyers wore Pride-theme jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape. The Flyers were holding their annual Pride Night in celebration and support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The 26-year-old Provorov played nearly 23 minutes in Philadelphia's 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

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

Ivan Provorov talks with media after not participating in pregame warm-ups on Pride Night 02:41

Provorov refused further comment.

Flyers head coach John Tortorella told reporters he didn't consider not playing Provorov despite him not taking part in warmups.

"With Provy, he's being true to himself and to his religion," Tortorella said. "This has to do with his belief and his religion. It's one thing I respect about Provy, he's always true to himself. That's where I'm at with that."

Tortorella pointed reporters to the team's statement and said the night was successful.

The Flyers released a statement saying, "The Philadelphia Flyers organization is committed to inclusivity and is proud to support the LGBTQ+ community. 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."

Provorov's decision not to participate in warmups was talked about on social media, including by Canadian hockey player Erin Ambrose.

"You have a player that openly declines to participate in an inclusive initiative for a community I am proud to be a part of. And you still dress him in the game?" a tweet from Ambrose read in part.

Another tweet said the Flyers organization should be "held accountable."

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, leader of Russia's dominant religious group, sent a strong signal last March justifying his country's invasion of Ukraine - describing the conflict as part of a struggle against sin and pressure from liberal foreigners to hold "gay parades" as the price of admission to their ranks.

The jerseys and sticks were set to be auctioned off by the Flyers following the game, with proceeds going to the team's charity and its efforts to grow the game of hockey in diverse communities.

The Flyers also hosted a pregame skate for local LGBTQ+ youth. Flyers players James van Riemsdyk and Scott Laughton have been staunch supporters of the community and launched a program in support of local LGBTQ+ youth in the greater Philadelphia area.

Laughton and van Riemsdyk met after the game with about 50 people in the LGBTQ+ community. Laughton said overall the Flyers had a "great, great night that brings a lot of awareness."

Laughton said there would be more conversations ahead with Provorov, who moved from Russia to the United States as a teenager. He signed a six-year, $40.5 million contract before the 2019 season and won the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers' outstanding defenseman in his rookie season, the youngest Philadelphia player to receive the honor.

"I don't hold anything against anyone," Laughton said. "It's nothing like that. It was an awesome night and I'm very happy we got a win on a night like this."

All-Star forward Kevin Hayes, who had a hat trick in the win over Anaheim, said "it's not for me to answer" when asked how he felt about Provorov's decision.

The Wells Fargo Center was decorated Tuesday night in rainbow hues representing the LGBTQ+ community through special pride-themed arena LEDs, décor and rainbow-themed team merchandise.

The NHL also champions the You Can Play Project, which aims to ensure equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. The NHL has never had an openly gay active player.

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