NHL Catering To Critics, Not Hockey Fans With Trans And Political Messaging

The National Hockey League is the latest corporate brand to embrace left-wing political messaging. NHL executives want the country to know its league is hip with supposedly inclusive trends.

Earlier this month, the NHL tweeted the following to its 7 million followers: "Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Nonbinary identity is real." The official account has shared #NHLPride several times of late.

Previously, you'd see an institutional brand make such a statement merely for business gain. But what's happening here is quite the opposite.

The NHL's stance that men and women are interchangeable, that gender is a choice and not biology, is hardly business savvy. The stance is divisive. The NHL's promotion of the message is aggressive, a clear form of pandering.

The social justice campaign is also unwarranted. No one turns to a professional hockey league for its opinion on transgender Americans.

So you see, appealing to the masses is not the objective. Like more mainstream brands, the NHL is showing a fascination with perception, often the opponent of business.

The NHL's messaging on biology is a ploy to appease not its passionate base of fans, but potential critics -- those who don't consume professional hockey.

What's happening here is no different than the slew of corporations who turn their logo into the rainbow flag during Pride Month, while hiding their support for the LGBT community in countries that deem homosexuality a crime. The NHL doesn't have to believe that men and women should play with each other on the ice to say so. Rather, the league must only pretend to share the idea to get in the good graces of the almighty arbiters of political correctness.

Sports leagues believe there's great benefit to being on the right side of the culture war. NASCAR and the UFC are often subjected to New York Times hit pieces, baseless accusations of racism, and fierce criticism from journalists.

Meanwhile, the press pampers the politically-active NBA for its promotion of BLM and "anti-racism" and loyalties to the Chinese Communist Party.

The NHL hopes to prove its wokeness is at least on par with the NBA's. And that's quite the standard.

But pandering comes at the expense of one's core base. A YouGov / Yahoo News poll in 2021 found that nearly half of the country changed its sports viewing habits once political and social messaging began to spread across professional sports leagues.

Viewership trends tell an eerily similar tale. The NFL drew record-high ratings in 2015. Its viewership then dropped over 30% in 2016 and further in 2017, when Colin Kaepernick and various NFL players knelt during the national anthem.

Likewise, the NBA recorded record-low Finals ratings in 2020 as it painted "Black Lives Matter" on the court. The 2019 NBA Finals drew 15.1 million viewers. That average fell to 7.5 million in 2020.

Now, the NBA can attribute a degree of its ratings tank to Covid-19, which forced the Finals into the fall of that year. Still, the out-of-place season does not explain a 50% drop. In fact, the NBA Finals have averaged only 10 million viewers since 2020, as the league continues to promote left-wing opinions as indisputable facts.

Americans want to watch sports -- not sports wrapped in political messaging.

Former NHL player Theo Fleury agrees. Fleury warned the NHL of the consequences of its actions in an interview Wednesday on Fox News with Tucker Carlson.

“I think the reason why we all gravitated toward hockey was, first and foremost, it was fun. Then secondly, there was no politics involved. We played this sport because we absolutely loved it. For me personally, it was an escape from what was going on in my life at that time," Fleury began.

"Deep down, hockey players are, you know, guys who are compassionate and empathetic; it’s just something we don’t want to get involved in. It’s an argument that we can’t win.”

Fleury concludes that the NHL insulted fans by injecting subjective political branding into the fiber of the league.

“Unfortunately, politics has no place in any sport, whether that’s football, basketball, hockey, baseball,” Fleury said. “Politics should never be part of any kind of sport whatsoever.”

Well said.

Hockey fans are not inherently positive or negative on trans issues. Most NHL viewers rarely think about said topic. Instead, they turn to hockey for fandom, an escape from the very conversations the NHL now infuses into the pastime.

The NHL is catering not to its fans but to political pressure. 

Written by
Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.