James Reimer is as nice an NHL player as I’ve ever met.
We local media voted him Sharks Media Good Guy last year.
Reimer also, in my opinion – and I know he will disagree – just committed an act of hatred by refusing to wear the San Jose Sharks Pride jersey for Sharks Pride Night.
Both things can be true.
“I have no hatred in my heart toward anyone and have always strived to treat everyone I encounter with respect and kindness,” Reimer said in the statement announcing his decision. “In this case, I choose not to endorse something that goes against my personal beliefs based on the Bible, the highest authority in my life.”
Reimer and I obviously disagree on what constitutes hatred, but that’s not the point of all this.
This is all just a reminder, really. This reminds us once again that we don’t really know these players.
This goes for fans and media.
We see them, in theory, at their best, on the ice and for short periods in the locker room.
Some journalists may also talk on the phone, text or have a drink with a player. But for the most part, we don’t really know them.
But the stories? So-and-so is the best guy. He is incredible.
Are you sure?
Be wary of stories, good or bad.
It turns out Reimer may be nice, but he’s not the nicest guy. He wasn’t nice enough to wear a rainbow jersey for 15 minutes to help a large, often marginalized portion of the fan base feel a little more welcome.
But neither is he an embodiment of pure evil.
People are, this is no great revelation, complicated.
Either way, this isn’t about me, despite how I started this editorial. I’m still processing what happened today, so writing down what I just wrote helps.
It’s also not about Reimer, even if he makes headlines.
I feel number 1 for members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are once again reminded that they are not entirely welcome in hockey.
It’s not just about one player. This is not an isolated incident.
They are Reimer, Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild – and on the other side, there are leaders like Scott Laughton and Jon Merrill and the San Jose Sharks who support Pride Night.
That’s a confusing message for such a fan, I think? But it’s reality, and I would understand if an LGBTQIA+ hockey fan wanted to leave this space where you don’t know where the players, the teams, and the league actually fit into the core of your human being.
It’s okay, says a hand reaching out to you. This isn’t right, another hand said, slapping you.
I commend Reimer for standing there and answering questions for about 15 minutes this morning. Provorov, his predecessor, answered a question on the subject, then told Flyers media he only wanted to talk about hockey.
Reimer could have answered more questions, but San Jose Sharks PR removed him after about 20 minutes.
There were still relevant questions, like…
The Bible says a lot of things: it says that you should rest on Sunday and not eat shellfish, among other things. Why bring up the Bible here, James?
(By the way, Reimer has played Sunday three times so far this season.)
What would you say to an LGBTQIA+ fan who you think no longer feels welcome in sports? You preach love, but your reference is a book that calls homosexuality an “abomination.”
In the LGBTQIA+ community, trans people have been the most targeted lately. What do you think of trans people?
I’m sure my colleagues had other questions as well.
The smallest act
I understand that it is Reimer’s choice and that it is a free country.
I don’t like his choice, but I support his right to do so.
I’m not calling for Reimer to be “cancelled” or have his NHL career cut short just because of this.
I believe that in America you have the right to express your opinion more or less, short of advocating outright violence.
But I don’t understand at all why Reimer is in tonight’s game.
I’m not even saying to officially suspend him for expressing his beliefs. I understand that this would raise concerns from the ABC anyway.
But at the bare minimum, Reimer should be healthy on a night that the organization says is about pride. If the San Jose Sharks organization is trying to make a statement about Pride Night, do your best to present a united front on this night. Having a dissenting player play – or drop back, be on the bench – diminishes the message.
To my knowledge, there is no reason for Reimer to be in the building on a night that he specifically does not want to be a part of.
It is the smallest act.
But small acts, good or bad, add up to something.
Take a marginalized LGBTQIA+ community, it’s death by a thousand cuts, I guess?
These little acts, these slaps in the face – Reimer sitting on the bench tonight, the Rangers and Wild backing out of their commitment to the Pride jersey at the last second, and so on – they never seem to end.