Russian born NHL defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin will not take part in the Buffalo Sabres Pride Night warmup with his team on Monday, citing fear of retribution over the laws in his native country against supporting LGBTQ rights.
The Sabres issued a statement Monday reaffirming its commitment to the community ahead of Pride Night, but made mention of the “general threats to certain players” after news broke that Lyubushkin, who was born in Moscow, would not partake in the evening’s events.
“The Buffalo Sabres are proud to continue to support the LGBTQIA+ community as allies by hosting our third annual Pride night game. It is of the utmost importance for us to continue to use our platform to strengthen our organizational goal of making hockey for everyone,” the statement read.
OPENLY GAY NHL PROSPECT SHARES ‘DISAPPOINTMENT’ OVER LACK OF PRIDE NIGHT SUPPORT
“Consistent with previous years, our team feels strongly that one way to garner support is through wearing Pride jerseys and using Pride tape in warmups. That said, we are aware of general threats to certain players and understand their decision to forego risk.”
In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law expanding restrictions on activities seen as supporting LGBTQ rights, and breaking that law could result in fines or jail time. According to The Athletic, Lyubushkin travels back to Russia, where his family lives, in the offseason.
Lyubushkin’s teammates spoke about his decision before Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens and seemingly empathized with his situation.
“I think, I don’t know if we have any Russians in this room, but as myself, as an American and as a North American, I don’t think I’m able to understand the psychological decisions that he’s going through and some of the psychological burdens that he goes through being from a different part of the world,” forward Kyle Okposo said.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COM
“I don’t think it’s fair to judge him in an apples-to-apples sense. We support Boosh in this room, and we want to make sure that he’s comfortable and we respect his decisions. I think that passing judgment on him without trying to understand the full scope of his decision would be unwise. We support him.”
Pride Night in the NHL has been a hotly debated subject around the league after a number of players and teams have decided to opt out.
The Chicago Blackhawks reportedly did not wear Pride-themed jerseys during warmups last week, citing similar concerns for their Russian players. Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov cited his Russian Orthodox religion in January as to why he did not join his team in celebrating Pride Night.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Eric and Marc Staal, veteran NHL brothers who play for the Florida Panthers, also cited their “Christian beliefs” in a statement last week announcing their decision to forego wearing Pride-themed jerseys during warmups. San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer stated the same when announcing his decision ahead of a game against the New York Islanders.
The New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild also decided against wearing the themed jerseys earlier this year.
Lyubushkin, 28, is expected to play Monday night against Montreal despite not taking part in warmups.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.