Alex Ovechkin is in a difficult political position that some prominent hockey voices think is simple. As Russia invades Ukraine, some believe Ovechkin’s open-ended “no more war” comments on Friday did not go far enough. Some want Ovechkin to condemn Russian president Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine, despite Russia’s blatant punishment of criticism — thousands have been jailed for protesting the war back at home — and Ovechkin’s family currently being inside the country.
Tuesday, New York Post’s Larry Brooks became the latest voice to criticize Ovechkin. Brooks, who covers the New York Rangers, wrote that the NHL should stop selling Alex Ovechkin gear.
The NHL must order all vendors, including the Caps, to stop sales of all Alex Ovechkin licensed material. Those wearing his jersey and those cheering him should think about what message they are sending as his IG profile photo with Putin remains in place.
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) March 1, 2022
Brooks’ argument is that Ovechkin represents Russia and since the Capitals’ captain hasn’t taken down his Instagram profile photo with Putin (which he posted after Russia won the World Championship in 2014), Ovechkin is one of the faces of Russia’s war and therefore must be punished. Artemi Panarin and Igor Shesterkin, two Rangers players that Brooks covers, have not spoken about the conflict since it started, though Panarin has a history of criticizing Putin.
Any actions Ovechkin takes against Putin — even removing an Instagram avatar posing with him — would become conspicuous news, accomplishing nothing for the situation materially while possibly incurring real, personal consequences for Ovechkin himself. So though Ovechkin’s relationship with Putin deserves a critical look, our judgment on his behavior now must also be informed by Russia’s behavior, Russian policy expertise, and Ovechkin’s precarious situation.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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