Russian Hockey Heroes Fail a Generation of Open Minds
An opinion piece by the impassioned Phil Nolan
For a lot of us, Hockey is the centerpiece of the Winter Games. My Dad will fall asleep during figure skating, and many stoners will leave slalom on while they’re playing Smash Bros, but the well-fueled fire that is hockey fandom gets a serious injection of national pride every fourth February.
Russia, a country renowned for their human rights record, has proven once again that you can’t teach an old, corrupt, homophobic dog new tricks. Often through Olympic history, you have seen the strongest statements for human rights made by the athletes themselves. The stars of the hockey world have taken their sides, and while I’m uplifted by a few voices, I am much more embarrassed and baffled by a few others.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsuyk, and Alex Ovechkin are three of the most prominent players in the NHL, and possibly the three most important Russian figures in professional sports. All three of them have been mum at best and supportive at worst regarding their feelings on Russia’s new homophobic laws.
I honestly don’t know what’s worse, the fact that these three indomitable figures seem to be complacent with the motherland’s steps backward, or how selfishly they seem to brush away any responsibility they may have as role models and public figures to address the issue. They gingerly dance around the topic to avoid their responsibility as ambassadors of the country and the sport. Their responses, although vague, indicate that they know what’s happening is fucked up, but they don’t particularly care.
There are reasons a Russian national would benefit from playing ball with the Putin administration’s stance. Life at home could become very unpleasant for them. There aren’t, however, reasons a player like Sidney Crosby from a country like Canada, should be dodging the issue and acting like both sides have a valid case and that everyone’s opinion is valued. Not to be outdone in the coward column, Crosby, the NHL’s most famous face, was completely without a stance on the issue.
It’s a shameful sight to see these big, tough men cower into children when faced with the issue of human rights. Fortunately, not every athlete is shying from the issue. Brayden Holtby, Henrik Zetterburg, Steven Stamkos, and Hank Lundqvist have all been expressive of their distaste for the laws and their impact on the olympics.
I can only hope that the voices of support continue to drown the voices of appeasement for the persecution of the LGBTQ community on a global scale. I fully believe that if the global sports world opens its arms and locker rooms to tolerance, so will follow the rest of the world.
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