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Thursday, January 19, 2023

OPINION:

There has been some well-deserved outrage over Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov’s refusal to take part in the team’s Pride Night festivities.

Provorov did not participate with his teammates in the Flyers’ pregame skating warmup Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, which included wearing special Pride-themed warmup jerseys with players’ names and uniform numbers in rainbow colors. They also used sticks wrapped in rainbow tape.


He wasn’t the only one to opt out of the commitment to diversity and inclusion.

On the same night in the District, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin did not take part in his team’s Pride Night celebration, held in partnership with Giant Food.

The Capitals did not choose such a powerful statement as having their players wear Pride-themed jerseys. That would have made the absence of Ovechkin stand out for all the world to see – like Provorov’s refusal did.

No, the Capitals went the route of giving their players the option of wrapping their pregame warmup sticks in Pride rainbow tape.

Ovechkin did not participate, according to team sources.

No reason was given for the star’s lack of participation. The decision to take part in the pride taping of the sticks is left up to the players, team officials said.

That is the National Hockey League’s position as well.

“Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with league counsel and support,” the NHL said in a statement in response to questions about Provorov’s refusal to take part in the celebration. “Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”

The Flyers defenseman, who is Russian, cited his Russian Orthodox religious beliefs as his reason for not taking part in the team’s Pride Night events.

“I respect everybody, and I respect everybody’s choices,” he told reporters. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion. That’s all I’m going to say.”

There was no reason given for Ovechkin’s decision to not participate in the pregame stick Pride taping. Team officials did not respond to a request seeking an explanation.

Here’s one possibility – his “president,” Russian strongman Vladimir Putin – who President Biden has referred to as a “butcher” for the war crimes committed in his invasion of Ukraine – certainly wouldn’t approve.

Putin is still on display on Ovechkin‘s Instagram account profile picture. Ovechkin has been a longtime supporter of the Russian butcher and even created a social media campaign called “Putin Team” to support reelection of the dictator in 2017 – three years after Putin invaded Crimea — as if his reelection was questioned in Russia.

The New York Times reported in March 2022 that Ovechkin, after coming under criticism for the Instagram display after Putin invaded Ukraine the month before, was going to change the photo to the symbol for world peace, but was advised not to do so, since Ovechkin’s family still lives in Russia. But no one had ever said who advised Ovechkin of this. If this was the case – that Ovechkin’s family lives in fear in Russia – he has had plenty of means and opportunity to get them out. Instead, he has chosen to support Putin’s regime.

Last month, Putin signed a new law that bans public expression of the identity of LGBTQ people, according to The New York Times. The new law makes it illegal to spread “propaganda” about “nontraditional sexual relations” in the media, advertising, movies or on social media. Demonstrations of “nontraditional relationships or preferences” also will be barred entirely from advertising and from any outlet visible to minors.

That didn’t stop fellow Russian teammate Evegeny Kuznetzov from signing a Capitals Pride Puck for the silent auction to raise money to benefit SMYAL – a nonprofit that works to empower LGBTQ youth. The sticks with Pride tape that were used and autographed by various players were also put up for auction for the fundraiser on the Pride Night auction website. There were team-signed items such as calendars that included Ovechkin‘s signature. But zero Pride items signed by Ovechkin.

Just two weeks ago, Ovechkin was celebrated for passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL’s all-time goal list. More than 800 fourth- and fifth-graders from Arlington County schools were invited to attend the Capitals practice and meet the celebrated star.

“It’s all about the joy we bring the kids,” Ovechkin told reporters.

Joy?

Not for Ukrainian children — more than 500 are among those victims killed since Putin invaded their country almost a year ago.

And apparently, not for LGBTQ youth as well.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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