An NHL player has received backlash on social media this week after refusing to participate in his team’s pride night on the basis of religious belief.

Ivan Provorov, a 26-year-old defenseman who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers, belongs to the Russian Orthodox religion. The religion believes that homosexual relationships are against God’s will.

“I respect everybody,” Provorov said in an interview. “I respect everybody’s choices. My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

He declined to comment further on the issue.

The Flyers held their pride night on Jan. 17 in a game against the Anaheim Ducks. It involved the players wearing rainbow-colored jerseys and using sticks wrapped in rainbow tape during the warmup. The equipment was auctioned off later, with the proceeds supporting the NHL’s diversity initiatives. Provorov chose not to participate in the warmup for the game.

Flyers’ Scott Laughton sports gay pride jersey ahead of Tuesday’s game Photo credit: Philadelphia Flyers Twitter

Provorov received backlash following his decision to skip the pride night. Many, including prominent hockey journalists Gord Miller and Pierre LeBrun, called Provorov out on social media, calling him homophobic and saying that the Flyers should suspend him.

Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella, who has often publicly commented on controversial topics, fully supports Provorov’s decision.

“Provy did nothing wrong,” Tortorella said. “Just because you don’t agree with his decision doesn’t mean he did anything wrong.”

Tortorella went on to defend Provorov further.

“Provy is not out there banging a drum against Pride Night,” Tortorella said. “He quietly went about his business. Him and I had a number of conversations (discussing) how we were going to do this.”

Provorov, typically the Flyers’ top defenseman, has been the subject of lots of trade rumors this season due to poor play. 32 Thoughts: The Podcast talked about Provorov for more than six minutes on Jan. 9, discussing potential trade options.