The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/19/13 at 02:03 AM ET
I'm posting this in my blog as opposed to KK Hockey because it may or may not be a touchy subject, and as it may or may not be hockey-related. Russia's strict anti-homosexuality laws will make the 2014 Olympics in Sochi both an inherently political place and very possibly a place where those who speak out against or publicly protest those laws (especially in a provocative manner) could be detained and/or expelled from the country, if not tried and jailed.
This past week, at the World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, Swedish high-jumper Emma Green Tregaro courted controversy, something of a scolding from Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and then threats of being kicked out of the events for violating codes of conduct, all because she painted her nails in "rainbow" colors.
In Sochi, it's entirely possible that athletes and fans attending the games who make more inflammatory public shows of support for the LGBT community may face some sort of Pussy Riot-style show trial, and as such, personalities like George Takei and Stephen Fry have suggested that the games simply either be "boycotted" or moved to Vancouver--which, as the National Post's Bruce Arthur noted, is impossible because Vancouver's Olympic Village was converted into private housing, some venues no longer exist and it's plain old impossible to coordinate the world's largest sporting event moving to the other side of the world six frickin' months before it takes place.
All of that being said, Henrik Zetterberg's statements suggesting that Russia's anti-homosexuality laws are "awful" was perhaps the tip of the hockey community's iceberg of disapproval for said laws (which, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted, will indeed apply to all foreigners in Sochi), and the NHLPA's involvement with the You Can Play Project ensures that athletes will continue to speak out against the laws and test the boundaries thereof (which isn't a bad thing).
USA Today's Kevin Allen spoke to Patrick Burke, You Can Play's founder, about a potential Olympic boycott and the education of athletes as to what they can and cannot say and do before they head to Sochi, and Burke suggested that a boycott's unnecessary...
"A boycott won't change anything. It's not like the Russians are going to say: 'You are right -- these laws are terrible.' The laws are going to remain in place if there is a boycott," Burke told USA TODAY Sports. "It's going to be a two-day story, maybe a week, if there is a boycott. But if we go, and then we have athletes and people talking about this on a daily basis for three straight weeks, it's way more valuable to the LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) community."
And I'd imagine that more than hockey players will lean upon You Can Play to figure out how they can show their distaste for the laws without scuttling their countries' Olympic bids:
Burke said he has informed USA Hockey and Hockey Canada that he is available to talk to their players about what is happening in Russia.
"We received positive responses from both groups, so I anticipate that there will be some way we will be involved to let athletes know what they are getting into," Burke said. "I will tell them what their options are when they have boots on the ground there."
Burke said he is encouraging hockey players, most of whom will be from the NHL, to express their displeasure with the Russian laws if that's how they feel.
"The laws are absurd, insulting and shameful," Burke said. "You are talking about laws that are in a culture in Russia right now where gay people are being beaten in the street. They are being arrested. Gay parents can lose their children. You are talking about draconian laws."
During the weekend, Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg criticized the Russian legislation as "awful." The laws ban promotion of non-traditional sexual relations.
"There are people being beaten up or killed for being gay," Burke said. "I don't know if there is an athlete out there that would stay silent if (he or she) knew what was going on."
Allen reports that Burke's father, Brian, may end up serving as You Can Play's representative at the games as he's going to be consulting with Team USA's brass.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the concept of athletes and fans being fined, jailed, kicked out of the country and/or tried for their actions voicing distaste for a law which institutionalizes discrimination and criminalizes "being a certain way" is scary.
Anything that organizations like You Can Play, participating countries' Olympic organizations and participating countries' governments can do to ensure that we don't hear about people being detained, beaten or tried for anything as innocuous as wearing a rainbow flag or simply stating that they disagree with the law...Would be welcome, because the Olympics are going to be held in Sochi, come hell or high water.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.