CANADA: Women’s Hockey League Required Attendees To Recite “Inclusion Pledge” Prior To Game

Ashley Gillett

A women’s hockey league is facing scrutiny after attendees were asked to recite an “inclusion pledge” prior to the game.

The “Sport a Rainbow” pledge was displayed at a Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) game on Wednesday evening at TD Place in Ottawa, Ontario. A photo of the pledge, displayed on a large screen above the ice, was shared by Michelle Alleva, a de-transitioned woman who speaks out against gender ideology and advocates for evidence-based health care. 

“I went to a PWHL game last night. Before the game, the audience was asked to read the following pledge out loud together. Part of the intention is to train the audience (which was full of young girls) to accept boys in their sports and to vilify people who don’t.”

“This is my first women’s hockey game, so I wasn’t sure if [the pledge] was a regular thing or something specific to this evening,” Alleva told The Publica. “I found out later on that it was ‘Pride Night’ for this game (which would explain all the flags — the regular rainbow flag, the rainbow ‘progress’ flag, the trans flag, the lesbian flag, the bisexual flag, lots of flags in the audience that evening — and a lot of homemade signage that audience members had brought referenced being gay or being inclusive), so the pledge may have been something specific for Pride Night.”

Alleva also told The Publica that everyone appeared to have complied with reciting the pledge without pushback, noting: “I didn’t witness any resistance.” 

Riley Gaines, an outspoken female athlete dedicated to protecting female sports, likened the pledge to Nazi propaganda.

X users brought up their concerns, including the vague language used in the pledge that some have interpreted as deceptive.

“It’s notable that there’s nothing explicitly referenced in the ‘Pledge.’ It’s all veiled in ‘be kind’ language. If it said ‘boys are girls’, or ‘everyone is free to compete in the category that suits their present, inner feeling,’ people would realize what they’re pledging to.”

Others referred to the pledge as a type of indoctrination.

“Protect women in sport and refuse indoctrination,” user Lynn Owen Ault II wrote.

The Sport a Rainbow Instagram page features a video from this specific game, showing those in attendance reciting the pledge with the caption proclaiming there were 7,686 “new pledge takers.” 

“How about 7,686 new pledge takers!! Thank you @pwhl_ottawa for helping us to share the pledge 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️❤️‍🔥 Happy Pride Night Ottawa!! We ran out of pledges & swag by the end of the first period. What a night!!”

Sport A Rainbow is an organization founded by Rose Powers, a Canadian female athlete, and coach who “believes in equality and inclusion for all in sport.” Powers believes this pledge will “foster safe spaces for everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, orientation or ability.”

According to their website, Sport A Rainbow acts as “a reminder to be supportive, respectful and kind to each other despite our differences,” asserting support can be shown in daily life in places like work, school, and sport, labeling those who take the pledge as “trailblazers” and “leaders.” 

According to the Sport A Rainbow main page, their focus is on “creating diversity” in hockey. “We achieve this by lowering financial barriers for equity deserving BIPOC and female youth, creating representative environments in our programs, and advocation and re-education in the minor hockey community.”

Sport A Rainbow also features ambassadors on their website, including children as young as 8. One young girl, Ella, is an 8-year-old who “loves hockey and has two moms!” She expresses her desire to be on the youth advisory committee for Sport A Rainbow, “My goal is to help make sure no one feels alone or left out and if I see something not okay I stand up for them.”

The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) was founded in 2023 by the Mark Walter Group and introduced its own “Original Six” teams located in Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Montreal, New York City, Ottawa, and Toronto. Mark Walter is also a co-owner of Major League Baseball (MLB) team the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chelsea Football Club out of Fulham, West London.

The Original Six is a well-known reference to the six teams that comprised the National Hockey League (NHL) between 1942 and 1967 consisting of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. 

“We are committed to a platform of fairness and equity and equality. The core values that have started this league will not ever change,” Brian Burke, the current executive director for PWHL said in a statement last year, “We don’t care where you played before you got here. We’re excited to have you here. If you can play here, you can play.”

Burke is a long-time NHL executive and served as the President of Hockey Operations for the Pittsburgh Penguins until he was fired in April of 2023. Burke, along with two other executives were ultimately relieved from their duties when the Penguins failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

While the pledge is viewed as a sign of inclusion and acceptance by some, others see it as a threat to female sporting events and competition as trans-identified males continue to enter into female sporting competitions, obtaining victories reserved for women as well as endangering women’s physical safety on the field and security in intimate spaces. 

Last year, a Massachusetts woman sustained facial injuries including broken teeth when a trans-identified male shot a field hockey ball, striking the woman in the face.

In another incident, a high school student in North Carolina suffered head injuries after a trans-identified male opposing player spiked a ball at her face during a volleyball game.

Alleva told The Publica she is “supportive of empowering women and girls” but the environment at the recent game made her feel “uncomfortable” especially as a woman who was harmed by gender ideology and has detransitioned. 

“The pledge itself does not mention trans-identifying players, but the implication…is that men who identify as women should be ‘included,’ that opposing such inclusion is ‘hateful,’ and that we need to remember that it’s ‘more than just a game.’ The value of fairness and integrity seems to be lost. I don’t believe there are currently any men on the women’s teams, but this is setting up the expectation that there might be in the future.”

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