Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

You Can Play Project will help Olympian NHL’ers navigate Russia’s anti-homosexuality laws

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.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

redxblack's avatar

I strongly disagree with Burke on the efficacy of a boycott. Not participating is intended not to shift the laws, but to shame Russia in the eyes of the world community. They need to see the rest of the world finds their conduct and laws so repugnant that they cannot participate even passively. It isn’t unprecedented. The US boycotted the 1980 Moscow olympics to protest the invasion of Afghanistan, and the USSR boycotted the 1984 LA olympics in kind.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 08/19/13 at 05:41 AM ET

Bugsy's avatar

One of the greatest things about being in America is Freedom of Speech. We can disagree about the issues, continually work to persuade one another, even yell and scream if we choose to, but that it’s not illegal to speak one’s mind. That’s how society works its problems out. We (ideally, I realize) respect the others’ opinion to allow room for working towards solutions that everyone can at least live with, if not like.

The other thing that should be enforced (but isn’t enough) is violence against others just because of who they are. Whether it be homosexuals being beat up/killed, Christians in Egypt now being persecuted as a minority in Egypt, the reason doesn’t matter. In my book, the only reason to consider physical force is if the person(s) cause physical harm or CLEARLY are about to.

When you fear your ideas aren’t going to win or that foreign ideas are a threat, the easy but wrong solution is to stamp it out rather than discuss it. I don’t want violence to anyone (except when it’s part of the routine like hockey), and I want to see this somehow end up in a way that people won’t have to fear speaking their minds. Whether you agree or disagree with homosexuality, the bigger principle we have to fight for is if any group/organization can shut another down for what they say, all you have to be is in the minority when that shut down/violence/whatever can happen to you.

Sorry, off soapbox. The world still has time to figure out what to do.

Posted by Bugsy on 08/19/13 at 05:50 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

I strongly disagree with Burke on the efficacy of a boycott. Not participating is intended not to shift the laws, but to shame Russia in the eyes of the world community. They need to see the rest of the world finds their conduct and laws so repugnant that they cannot participate even passively. It isn’t unprecedented. The US boycotted the 1980 Moscow olympics to protest the invasion of Afghanistan, and the USSR boycotted the 1984 LA olympics in kind.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 08/19/13 at 06:41 AM ET

I think both arguments have their place and neither result is bad. I think Burke does have a decent point given how fast the news cycle moves now… having the games go on is more likely to drag the discussion about how effed up Russia’s law is over the course of all this time leading up to and through the Olympics. If boycotts start flowing in, the discussion will spike in the news media briefly, then fade off quietly.

As long as folks like Tregaro and Zetterberg (and many others, I can’t remember all of them) keep standing up for what’s right, boycott or play is fine with me. The only bad result is if everyone shies away from the issue, and it gets zero discussion and coverage.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 08/19/13 at 07:34 AM ET

Ajax19's avatar

Incredibly proud of Zetterberg.  Honored that he wears the “C” for Detroit.

Posted by Ajax19 on 08/19/13 at 08:21 AM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

Viktor Hedman also spoke up. I suspect we’ll see more NHL’ers do so in the lead up to the games. Of course, all eyes will be on the NHL’s top Russian players.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 08/19/13 at 10:17 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Zata is carrying that “C” with enormous character.  Except for Sawchuk, every single one of those numbers retired to the rafters at the Joe were Captains…and of the highest character.  Again, not just anyone’s number gets retired in Detroit.

I’m seriously considering adding Zata’s name and number to my Wings sweater collection.

Posted by SYF from The Revenge of Johnny E on 08/19/13 at 11:19 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Here’s the full list of players who spoke out against the law when Aftonbladet’s Linus Norberg asked them to weigh in:

Jimmie Ericsson (Jonathan’s brother), Erik Karlsson, Alexander Steen, Henrik Lundqvist, Gabriel Landeskog, Douglas Murray, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Patric Hornqvist, Marcus Kruger, Nicklas Grossman, Marcus Johansson, Henrik Tallinder, Loui Eriksson, Victor Hedman, Robin Lehner, Erik Gustafsson, Zetterberg and Viktor Fasth.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/19/13 at 11:59 AM ET

Crater's avatar

“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.”


That is terrible. Its easy to forget how different the world can be compared to here. I hope the players continue to keep speaking out and doing everything they can to shame Russia about this issue.

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 08/19/13 at 01:40 PM ET

Avatar

What better Olympics to boycott than one that will be difficult for most people to catch the games live anyway.  I’d be ok with a boycott. Stick it to Putin!

Posted by SlimChance on 08/19/13 at 03:02 PM ET

Avatar

Here’s the full list of players who spoke out against the law when Aftonbladet’s Linus Norberg asked them to weigh in:

Jimmie Ericsson (Jonathan’s brother), Erik Karlsson, Alexander Steen, Henrik Lundqvist, Gabriel Landeskog, Douglas Murray, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Patric Hornqvist, Marcus Kruger, Nicklas Grossman, Marcus Johansson, Henrik Tallinder, Loui Eriksson, Victor Hedman, Robin Lehner, Erik Gustafsson, Zetterberg and Viktor Fasth.

Over under on number of current Russian NHL’ers who will take a public stand on this issue: 2.

I’ll take the under.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 08/20/13 at 04:10 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

The Russian Olympic orientation camp roster will be meeting with comrade Putin on Friday, in Sochi. They sure as hell better hold their tongues lest they get sent to Antarctica. If any Russians make comments, they won’t do so until they’re on this side of the Atlantic,  and please bear in mind that the Russian team is the kind of operation that blacklists players if they step out of line.

It’s entirely possible that anyone who takes a strong stance against the laws could lose their spot on the team

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/20/13 at 04:20 AM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

About The Malik Report

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.