Is Hockey Truly For Everyone?

With Pride & hockey being thrust to the fore once again this week thanks to an ill thought out Tweet, Chris Lovell, a gay Belfast Giants fan, gives his take on the Tweet, the reaction to it and how attitudes and tolerance have to change.

I’m writing this article on Wednesday 10th November 2021 yet the subject is something which should have been laid to rest decades ago.

Before we get into this some context is needed, for anyone who doesn’t know me my name is Chris. I’m a 33 year old openly gay man from Belfast, I also happen to be a sports fan. I support the Belfast Giants in the EIHL.

In recent years we have seem many initiatives around inclusion and equality. The Cardiff Devils being the standard bearer in the EIHL with their ‘You Can Play’ programme and now league wide with the Pride Weekend involving each and every club.

Sadly we have also seen certain undertones surface whether intentional or not. The entire league remembers the now infamous David Simms incident being the most high profile.

There was the pitiful apology issued after but no real meaningful statement or action, arguably okaying further incidents going forward. I am not of course blaming these on David, but does some blame lie at league board level? That’s for others to decide.

There was then a Pride theme discussed for the Playoff weekend with a Clan fan tweeting a rather offensive tweet, essentially deciding the theme and credit to the Clan fanbase they really went for it!

In recent days many will have seen a tweet doing the rounds from a Cardiff fan, important to state he has since redacted the tweet and apologised to his credit.

The real question I want to challenge you to consider is at what point is Hockey not for everyone?

The outcry seen over the past few days for me has been both heartwarming and at times worrying.

There was rightly those challenging his view, however there was also abuse and hatred being levelled his way, the very thing we are trying to combat and put an end to. I understand the damage such views can cause, I’ve been there, coming out is the hardest, most terrifying thing I’ve done in my life, however seeing hatred and addressing it with more hatred will change nothing and potentially add fuel to their homophobic view and belief.

Should people that hold and voice views the majority of people find reprehensible continue to be welcomed at rinks and arenas? It’s a hard one to address. Personally I would rather we tried to educate these people and make them aware of the consequences of their actions, the pain it can cause and encourage them to change. Certainly if their behaviour doesn’t alter, then banning then remains an option.

I realise it’s a fantasy world we’re we all get along but surely that needs to be the target, not only league wide but humanity in general. The babysteps the league have taken are great but more needs to be done to unify from the top and and club levels also.

It’s too easy to be an as***le on twitter and other socials and act the eejit but we all need to be mindful of the potential audience what we say will reach.

The Giants mantra encompasses this well ‘In The Land Of The Giants Everyone Is Equal’ something which is easily forgotten, all of us with our differing views on many subjects are equal and should treat each other with the respect we expect off others

Let’s make sure Hockey truly is for everyone, not just those chosen few we share common views and opinions with.

This is my opinion personally and I’m welcoming discussion around it and happy to hear others opinions.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @chrisgllovell

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