These days, when it comes to tolerance, we are truly living in “the upside down,” or the “bizarro world,” to steal phrases from Netflix sensation “Stranger Things” and “Seinfeld” respectively. Down is up, left is right, hot is cold.
A recent example comes from the world of professional hockey and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov, who has been viciously and unfairly attacked for refusing to wear a “Pride Night” jersey on Jan. 17 sporting a rainbow flag, or use a rainbow-taped hockey stick during pregame warmups. Provorov simply told reporters that he did not partake in any of these LGBTQ+ festivities “to stay true to myself and my religion … I respect everyone. I respect everyone’s choices.”
So why the apoplectic backlash? Who exactly are the intolerant ones in this all-too-familiar scenario?
It seems today’s standard has become that it’s not sufficient to simply respect everyone and their choices — as Provorov clearly expressed. Apparently, you must also overtly advocate for and celebrate their choices as well (even if at odds with your own), or else you’ll be labeled an intolerant buffoon or worse.
In fact, shouldn’t we respect Ivan Provorov even more that he bravely stood up for and adhered to his own beliefs — and at the same time expressing clear respect for the freedoms and personal choices of the LGBTQ+ community — rather than submit to an empty, hollow, and meaningless donning of the rainbow flag?
One might safely assume that Provorov wasn’t the only player who felt this way, but clearly was the only one who refused to go along to get along. In today’s wide world of woke and cancel culture, who wants to deal with the backlash? It may seem worth it from an idealistic or ideological standpoint — but practically? Not so much.
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Tal Fortgang, a fellow at the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, wrote a recent commentary on this subject in the Wall Street Journal. Fortgang writes, “A message of ostensible tolerance — be whoever you want to be and live your truth — is hardly the gentle embrace of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Instead, it is quiet coercion: Bake the cake. Wear the jersey. Bend the knee. Why else has one man’s dissent stirred such outrage?”
In his commentary, Fortgang speaks of America being a “pluralistic” society, whereby “freedom to live as one pleases is a two-way street.” In today’s day and age, shouldn’t this sentiment simply be inherent in the wonderful melting pot of America?
As for the rainbow flag itself, Fortgang writes, “…that flag and the fiery demands to respect the orthodoxy that invariably accompanies it are a violation of the pluralistic compromise. Those who wave and wear it preach tolerance but don’t seem committed to that value in the face of other viewpoints.” What many are unable or unwilling to understand is that alternative “viewpoints” do not equal intolerance.
It’s no surprise that other NHL teams were paying close attention to the controversy. A mere 10 days later on Jan. 27, the New York Rangers altered their own seventh annual Pride Night by simply not forcing their players to drape themselves in rainbows. All of the other pomp and circumstance surrounding the event remained unchanged. Still, those paying attention were forced to endure the predictable conniption from various left wing writers and activists.
So much for the two-way street of American pluralism. I’m convinced that such intolerance of alternative or nonconforming viewpoints is borne out of an explosion of narcissism in today’s society — an obvious byproduct of social media.
In the end, this is yet another example of why professional sports teams should steer very clear of politics and culture wars, and simply exist as the enjoyable and valued diversions to the daily grind of American life that many of us grew up with. The only wars they should engage in, figuratively speaking, should be fought on the ice, court, or field.
Michael Zais is a writer for The Drunken Republican and a member of the Central Florida 100.
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