During his Thursday press conference, Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Tortorella addressed a flurry of questions about Ivan Provorov’s decision to sit out warmups on Pride Night. The Flyers celebrated Pride Night during their home game on Tuesday, and Provorov chose not to partake in the pregame warmup, which would have involved wearing a jersey that featured rainbow numbers and lettering on the nameplate.
Provorov cited his religious beliefs as the reason why he sat out of warmups. Tortorella defended Provorov’s right to make his own decision in the postgame press conference, and he elaborated on those thoughts ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Tortorella reiterated that he believes Provorov “did nothing wrong” and drew a link to his own prior comments about benching players who kneel or protest in any other way during the national anthem.
“As I said, Provy did nothing wrong. Just because you disagree with his decision doesn’t mean he did anything wrong. Let me put it to you this way, in my experience. I think it was back in ’16 when I was asked a question about the flag. That’s when (Colin) Kaepernick was sitting. He wasn’t kneeling. He was just sitting at that time. They asked me if a player sits, what would you do? What did I say? I said the player would sit the rest of the game.
“I was wrong. I learned a lot through that experience. My feelings toward any kind of protest toward the flag or during the anthem, it disgusts me. It disgusts me. It shouldn’t be done. Those are my feelings. I can’t push those feelings onto someone else. So I was wrong in saying that back then. I didn’t realize I was, but as I went through it all, who am I to push my feelings onto someone else?”
Tortorella went on to explain that he had extensive discussions with Provorov about his decision to sit out of the warmup. He also spoke to members of the team about the situation, including Scott Laughton, who is involved with the LGBTQ+ community in Philadelphia.
“Provy is not out there banging a drum against Pride Night,” Tortorella said. “He quietly went about his business. He and I had a number of conversations to how we were going to do this. You have him, you have the team, and you have all this going on. Talked to (Scott Laughton). Went through the whole process there. He felt strongly about his beliefs, and he stayed with it. This was discussed.”
Even though Provorov chose not to participate in the Pride Night warmup, Tortorella said it was a successful night for the franchise. The coach cited other players’ support of the LGBTQ+ community and high attendance for the game as bright spots.
“You asked me if I was going to bench him,” Tortorella said. “Why would I bench him? Because of a decision he’s making on his beliefs and religion? It turned out to be a great night for Pride Night. Players were involved. The building was filled. There was awareness and everything.
“Provy didn’t actively seek out and try to make a stand against it. He just felt he didn’t want to take warmup. I respect him for his decision. I thought the team handled it well. I thought our whole organization handled themselves well to make sure we didn’t lose sight of that night.”