The Florida Panthers celebrated inclusivity in sport during their warm-up session on Thursday night, donning jerseys that supported the LGBTQ+ community. However, two players from the opposition team, Eric and Marc Staal of the Buffalo Sabres, declined to wear these special jerseys.
Eric and Marc cited their religious beliefs as the reason for not participating in this initiative. The brothers are known for being devout Christians and have previously spoken about how their faith guides their lives both on and off the ice.
In a statement released by Eric Staal after the game he said: "As a Christian, my values and beliefs do not align with that particular lifestyle. I had no problem supporting an anti-bullying campaign or cancer awareness night but when it came to supporting something that goes against what I believe in, I have to take a stand."
The NHL has long advocated for diversity and inclusion within its league. It is unclear if there will be any repercussions for Eric or Marc's refusal to participate in this event.
This decision by the Staals sparked mixed reactions on social media with some applauding them for sticking true to their beliefs while others criticized them for not supporting inclusivity in sport.
The Florida Panthers ended up winning Thursday night's game 3-2 against Buffalo Sabres despite this controversy surrounding pre-game warm-ups.