Entertainment Sports Openly Gay NHL Prospect Luke Prokop Calls Out Lack of 'Inclusion' After Players Boycott Pride Night The Nashville Predators player spoke out after an NHL goaltender refused to wear a pride jersey By Natasha Dye Natasha Dye Twitter Natasha Dye is a writer-reporter for PEOPLE Digital covering sports. People Editorial Guidelines Published on March 22, 2023 01:39 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Jonathan Kozub/Getty Luke Prokop is calling out the lack of "inclusion" among NHL players after multiple have refused to take part in their teams' pride nights. 20-year-old Prokop, the first openly gay player with a contract under the NHL, penned a thoughtful message about players in the league who have opposed wearing pride jerseys or using rainbow stick tape during their teams' annual pride events. "I share the disappointment in what feels like a step back for inclusion in the NHL," Prokop wrote and shared on Twitter. The Nashville Predators prospect said the pride nights and jerseys "play an important role in promoting respect and inclusion for the LGBTQIA+ community," and the lack of enthusiasm around the league is "disheartening." Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Nashville Predators Prospect Luke Prokop Comes Out as Gay, Making NHL History: 'I Am Proud' Prokop noted that "the focus" of the league's initiative to grow advocacy has "become about the players who aren't participating rather than the meaning of the night itself." "Everyone is entitled to their own set of beliefs but I think it's important to recognize the difference between endorsing a community and respecting individuals within it," Prokop continued, adding that the pride nights "are an essential step" for the league. Buccaneers' Carl Nassib, First Openly Gay NFL Star, Says 'I'm Not Hiding' The athlete said he "strongly" believes that the NHL can become "an environment where every player feels comfortable bringing their authentic selves to the game" if teams and players can "prioritize diversity and inclusion." Prokop, who currently plays for the minor league team the Seattle Thunderbirds, said he hopes he can enter any future NHL locker rooms knowing he can "share all parts of" his identity with his teammates. Ending his message, Prokop said "there's still progress to be made," adding that "hockey is for everyone," but he remains "optimistic" and is "committed to being a part of" the progress. Jonathan Kozub/Getty Prokop's message comes just days after San Jose Sharks goaltender James Reimer refused to wear the team's pride jersey. Reimer, 35, cited his religious beliefs as the reason he wouldn't wear the jersey with his teammates during the Sharks pride celebration. Reimer said he was "choosing not to endorse something that is counter to" his personal convictions, referencing the Bible in his statement. Earlier this season, the Philadelphia Flyers' Ivan Provorov also refused to take part, citing his religion. The New York Rangers also canceled most of their planned Pride Night events that were scheduled for Jan. 27. Raiders' Carl Nassib Says He Feared Coming Out Publicly Would 'Ruin His Career': 'It Was Not Easy' Prokop came out as gay in 2021, one year after being selected by the Nashville team in the 2020 NHL Draft. "While the past year and a half has been crazy, it has also given me the chance to find my true self," he said at the time. "I am no longer scared to hide who I am," he wrote in a statement shared on social media. "Today I am proud to publicly tell everyone that I am gay." One year later, he reflected on the support he felt from friends and family. "A year ago today I took a leap of faith and came out to the world," Prokop tweeted in July and has since pinned to the top of his profile. "I was astonished by the amount of support and positivity I received from the world. It's been one hell of a year with a ton of amazing memories, looking forward to living like this for the rest of my life."