NHL Won’t Boycott Sochi Olympics.

Russia’s new, repugnant “anti-gay” laws have earned that country almost global condemnation, casting a pall over the approaching 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

It’s sparked calls for nations or Olympic athletes to boycott the Games in protest.

Should the NHL boycott the Sochi Olympics?

Should the NHL boycott the Sochi Olympics?

History has shown, however, boycotts have little effect upon the Olympics. Too much money has been invested, not just by the host country but also, as The Huffington Post’s Yoni Goldstein recently observed, by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), media and advertisers.

Goldstein also noted it would be unfair to force amateur athletes to boycott an event they’ve been working toward for years.

He instead suggests the NHL should boycott the Sochi Games, arguing the already well-compensated players don’t need the medal money, while noting the lukewarm attitude of the team owners toward Olympic participation.

What people believe the NHL “should” do and what they will do are different things.

The NHL recently completed months of laborious negotiations regarding its participation in the Sochi Games with the IOC and the International Ice Hockey Federation(IIHF). Breaking those agreements could result in lawsuits against the NHL, as well as costing the league a cut of Olympic advertising and broadcast revenue.

True, most NHL team owners aren’t fond of shutting down for three weeks and watching their best players risk injury in a tournament which has no impact upon the NHL standings or Stanley Cup playoff seeding.

Having recently emerged from a lockout which cost them half a season, however, the team owners won’t risk conflict with the NHL Players Association, whose membership endorsed participation in the Sochi Games.

The real reason there won’t be an NHL boycott is the league’s top Russian players made it quite clear years ago they’ll represent their country, with or without the approval of the league and their respective NHL teams.

Nobody within the NHL wants to risk the embarrassment of their top Russian stars heading for Sochi without league permission.

Russia’s anti-gay laws will remain an issue in the months leading up to the Sochi Games, provoking more reaction from Olympic-bound NHL stars, as well as from athletes in other sports attending those Games.

Sweden’s Henrik Zetterberg and Victor Hedman have already stated their opposition to those laws, but remain committed to representing their country in Sochi. More Olympic-bound NHLers could volunteer their opinion in the coming weeks. They’ll certainly be questioned by the media, especially Russian NHL stars.

While boycotts won’t happen, the Russian government is setting itself up for protests – overt or otherwise – from the athletes during the Sochi Games, including potential medalists. Whether those protests involve NHL players remain to be seen.

The NHL could warn its players to keep their views private in Sochi to avoid an international incident, as Russian government officials claims visiting Olympic athletes will be subjected to the same law as Russian citizens.

However, those officials might not risk international incidents sullying their games by arresting foreign athletes who voice their opposition – by word or deed – against their hateful laws.

Whatever happens, the NHL will be at the Sochi Games.


  1. Ok so this Winter Olympics are we saying no men’s figure skating or no ice dancing? That works.

    • hahahahaha.. i wish

  2. So money trumps a persons rights and morals can be thrown out the window. The NHL pretends to be a leader when in regards to breaking down the ‘gay athlete in hiding’ in sports but endorses participation in a country with these kinds of laws and discrimination…because of
    money…shame on both the NHL and the NHLPA. What a bunch of hypocrites!

    • Huge like on that one Flying V.

      When money starts to trump human rights that isn’t a victory. Flooding billions of $$$ into the Russian economy after they do this crap isn’t a victory. A ‘gay athlete’ winning a medal in a country where they can’t even be themselves in celebration … that is not victory, that is regression and acceptance.

    • @ The Flying V

      I completely disagree. I’d be willing to bet if you look through various countries laws, you’d find things unappealing. Should other countries boycotted the Olympics in the U.S. because of the Jim Crow laws? How about the Viet Nam War, War in Afghanistan or Iraq Wars? If the Olympics were in Mexico, should we all boycott them because of the drug cartels and corrupt government?

      And also, your critique is misguided. Why are you only blaming the NHL? Shouldn’t a majority of your ire be addressed towards the players? The NHL is only cooperating in terms of scheduling and contract concessions. The players are the ones that are going to make individual choices as to whether to play or not.

      I don’t know if you’re from the U.S. or Canada. Speaking for the U.S., it’s time we stop being the moral crusaders for the world and stop finding new ways and reasons to be outraged. Russia has a law we don’t like. Oh well.

      Besides, let’s not forget the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. How do you think Hitler felt watching Jesse Owens run circles around the competition. That moment is worth far more than the shallow symbolic victory of a boycott.

      • “Should other countries boycotted the Olympics in the U.S. because of the Jim Crow laws? How about the Viet Nam War, War in Afghanistan or Iraq Wars? If the Olympics were in Mexico, should we all boycott them because of the drug cartels and corrupt government?”

        -‘Listen people, what Russia is doing is unacceptable behavior and should not be condoned by anyone for any reason in this day and age. Just like the lack of human rights in china, Korea, right here at home in all of north America, etc, etc.’

        “And also, your critique is misguided. Why are you only blaming the NHL? Shouldn’t a majority of your ire be addressed towards the players?”

        -‘shame on both the NHL and the NHLPA. What a bunch of hypocrites!’

        …and I did not equate hate laws and corruption. I said they have both just like we do and it is wrong here as well.

        P.S. “4. It appears you have no clue what the laws are.”

        Russia’s Anti-Gay Law, Spelled Out in Plain English
        Innokenty (Kes) GrekovinWorld 2 weeks ago
        -On June 30 this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” thus opening a new, dark chapter in the history of gay rights in Russia. The law caps a period of ferocious activities by the Russian government aimed at limiting the rights of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

        The violations of fundamental, constitutionally protected rights of Russia’s gay citizens have included multiple bans on gay pride parades in Moscow and other cities, hefty fines to gay rights groups accused of acting as a “foreign agent,” denial of registration to nongovernmental organizations, and regional laws banning the propaganda of homosexuality to minors, which served as a basis for the federal law enacted by Mr. Putin and unanimously passed by the State Duma. Against this backdrop, violent attacks on gays or “suspect gays” are becoming commonplace.

        The state-sponsored initiatives relied on ludicrous assumptions. For example, the regional bans on propaganda of homosexuality equated same-sex relations with pedophilia even though the former has been legal since 1993 and the latter is, of course, a serious crime. The court decision denying registration to Sochi Pride House states that “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation” is a direct threat to Russian society, while calling attempts to confront homophobia “extremist” because they inherently “incite social and religious hatred.” Essentially, the court ruled that gays incite hatred toward themselves and should be “protected” from doing so. The court went on to argue that such extremist activities present a threat to “Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The Russian government uses these flawed arguments when it defends its discriminatory ways to an international audience. Russian diplomats are fond of saying that discrimination does not exist in Russia because the country’s constitution forbids it. Some logic!

        Russia’s courts and diplomats — and President Putin — cannot be trusted to explain the status of gay rights in the country, but the European Court of Human Rights can. In April 2011, the Strasbourg court fined Russia for violating articles 11, 13, and 14 of the European Convention by banning 164 pride events and marches between 2006 and 2008. The unanimous decision in Alekseyev v. Russia came into force after the Russian government lost its appeal in Strasbourg, yet although the Kremlin paid the fine, they continued to ban pride rallies. In May 2012, a district court in Moscow issued a ruling banning such events in the city until May 2112. That’s Russia’s approach: pay the fine, admit nothing, and make things worse.

        The cornerstone of Mr. Putin’s “War on Gays,” however, is the vaguely defined and definitively antigay Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses, which allows the government to fine individuals accused of the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations amongst minors. The federal ban “builds on the success” of regional laws on “propaganda of homosexualism to minors,” passed in 10 regions since 2006. We have yet to see an example of the federal law in action, though we came pretty close when four Dutch citizens were briefly detained in the northern city of Murmansk in July. Regional laws were used several times to fine gay rights activists.

        Here is what Article 6.21 actually says:

        Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.

        If you’re Russian. Individuals engaging in such propaganda can be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles (120-150 USD), public officials are subject to fines of 40,000 to 50,000 rubles (1,200-1,500 USD), and registered organizations can be either fined (800,000-1,000,000 rubles or 24,000-30,000 USD) or sanctioned to stop operations for 90 days. If you engage in the said propaganda in the media or on the internet, the sliding scale of fines shifts: for individuals, 50,000 to 100,000 rubles; for public officials, 100,000 to 200,000 rubles, and for organizations, from one million rubles or a 90-day suspension.

        If you’re an alien. Foreign citizens or stateless persons engaging in propaganda are subject to a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles, or they can be deported from the Russian Federation and/or serve 15 days in jail. If a foreigner uses the media or the internet to engage in propaganda, the fines increase to 50,000-100,000 rubles or a 15-day detention with subsequent deportation from Russia.

        Huh? What?

        The law passed by the Duma is so ambiguous for a reason. Without a legal definition of ‘propaganda’ or ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ — key operative words in Article 6.21 — we are not getting a clear picture of how the authorities will use it. Ironically, the best arguments against the adoption of this the antigay legislation come from none other than the Russian government. In 2004 and 2006, the government resisted attempts to introduce similarly ambiguous federal bans on “the propaganda of homosexuality.”

        On February 20, 2006, then-Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov (currently serving as a Deputy Speaker of the State Duma and the President of Russia’s Olympic Committee), submitted an official recall to a tabled antigay bill, arguing that the legislation contradicted Russia’s criminal code that doesn’t allow to criminalize the propaganda of noncriminal behavior, contains “a row of mistakes and judicial-technical inexactitudes,” and relies on definitions that do not allow to clearly formulate corpus delicti. The May 20, 2004, rebuttal from Mr. Zhukov was even more forthcoming, pointing out that the bill “contradicts article 29 of the Russian Constitution, as well as articles 8, 10, and 14 of the European Convention on human rights.”

        I couldn’t put it better than Zhukov. Unfortunately, his resistance to the anti-gay bills of 2004 & 2006 came at a time when the Kremlin cared about Russia’s international reputation. Now it appears to care only about nontraditional sex.

        • Excellent post. I’ll be honest, I tried to find exactly that but was unable to. I only found oblique references to the law. So a few things I’d like to point out:

          1. The source of that article is engaging in a fair bit of advocacy. That’s not just a straight-forward news article. “… a new dark chapter…” So your source is not completely objective on the matter.

          2. The way I read the law, “non-traditional” could refer to heterosexual activity as well.

          3. Some part of me suspects that this law is a symbolic Putin thumb in the eye to President Obama.

          4. Boycotting may make us (the U.S. and Canada) feel better about ourselves, but we’re not going to be sending a message to them. The bully is not intimidated when the people he bullies run away.

          5. I’ll give you two scenarios, you tell me which one makes the better statement:

          Scenario A: The NHL boycotts the Olympics and NHL players don’t show. The Russian hockey team (aka the KHL All Stars) shows up and mows down all of the competition on the way to the gold medal. You do realize that this is the likely scenario. Then the Russians can turn that into a PR (read propaganda) victory. “The immoral and weak North Americans were too afraid to show up and play in Russia.”

          Scenario B: speaks out harshly against the Russian anti-gay laws during an interview. From this point forward, Russia has no good options. If they fine or jail him it would cause an international incident. If they do nothing, then they let a foreigner come over and openly disobey their law in the most public way. Now imagine if that NHL player was a Russian like Evgeni Malkin.

          • Excellent reply, and no, the source I used was not completely objective but I thought it helped make it more understandable.

            My point was that I think the statement needs to be made in such a strong fashion that I believe both of your scenarios should be the goal. I don’t believe one is correct while the other is not but that as much noise as possible should be made about it and as many tactics as you can come up with should be employed; social media, speaking out in interviews, publicly expressing why you are not even going to show up, etc. as much of EVERYTHING as possible.

            If you go, you should scream ‘bloody murder’ about it while you are there. Don’t just go and hope somebody else does it for you…

            …and me, I would not go and scream ‘bloody murder’ about why I didn’t.

            Both are correct ways to get a message out. My point was the message NEEDS to get out and just one or two athletes out of the lot with the brass to do the speaking out is not enough. Everyone going needs to speak out as does everyone who chooses not to.

            As the NHL and the NHLPA both have made considerable comments on how the NHL is leading the sports world on acceptance of gay athletes, I feel they need to follow through by standing together to make a huge statement. Whether that means staying home and proudly declaring why or going but doing it while speaking out harshly every step of the way would both be beneficial but by not saying much at all and leaving it up to only a couple of people to ‘say something if they feel like it’ instead of standing together one way or another makes the NHL and NHL leaders a pathetic group of politically correct cowards, in my opinion.

            P.S. thank you for engaging in an actual conversation on the subject instead of the typical internet mindless troll mentality. It is beyond refreshing:)

  3. I support gay rights as much as anyone, but to boycott the Olympics because of how a country governs itself is knee-jerkish and short sighted.

    Better reactions are athlete showing support for LGBT rights with colors and like the Russian girls who kissed on the podium. A boycott seems like a really childish act to me, especially in one of the world’s great events.

    • Are you kidding me? Knee jerkish to to stand up for a persons rights? I guess you would be ok with being arrested and thrown in jail if I decided anyone with the name ‘kizur’ is intolerable?

  4. Does boycotting the Olympics make any difference? Does it actually change anything?
    Ask yourself, which Olympics do I remember? The 1968 Mexico games, where John Carlos and Tommie Smith took a stand on the stand, or the 1980 US lead boycott of the Moscow games and the Russian response of boycotting the 1984 LA games? Do you even remember those boycotted games? I bet you all remember Carlos and Smith making their statement on the stand.
    Which event had the most impact is a completely different question. Did any of those make a lasting change?

    • So let’s just ignore the problem and make a stand elsewhere, right? We don’t have to abolish slavery as long as we reduce the number I guess is what you are saying…just wow…

      • Did I say ignore the problem? No. I said that taking a stand DURING has more impact than staying away. Boycotting is more akin to ignoring than actually having the guts to be seen. That is why we remember Carlos and Smith, and have forgotten the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.

        • Boycotting IS taking a stand. In this day and age we need to both be vocal about it and DO something about it. There was no social media back then so the spectacle did make a difference. Now we can express our views for the world to see and hear and we can DO something about it as well by not supporting their hate laws by infusing money into their corrupt government.

          • Difference of opinion.

          • @ The Flying V

            1. If there’s boycotting to be done, it should be done BY the players, not the NHL.

            2. Social media only matters to people paying attention, and most of the time that’s fellow like-minded people. Nobody is going to come to some great epiphany because you posted your opinion on Facebook.

            3. Your statements are typical of people of a certain political persuasion (opposite of mine) who contort and exaggerate issues. How do you equate “hate laws” and “corrupt government”? These are blatant exaggerations which undermine the credibility of your argument.

            4. It appears you have no clue what the laws are. To be honest, I didn’t either until reading this post. I tried to look them up and I’m having a hard time finding details on the law through all of the outrage propaganda. The law (based on what I’m finding) prohibits the promotion of homosexuality to minors. That’s not a hate law and that doesn’t ipso facto make Russia corrupt. It may be narrow-sighted and a bit silly, but the implementation of the law has had the opposite affect. It has spotlighted the gay issue so much that it can’t be avoided. This is something that wouldn’t be happening if we followed your suggestion and boycotted.

    • Lyle,

      Spot on.

      They may not know the names (Tommie Smith or John Carlos), but they’d immediately recognize the poster.

      I mentioned in a comment above the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Jesse Owens winning gold medals while Hitler sat watching is probably one of the greatest moments in sports history.

  5. Listen people, what Russia is doing is unacceptable behavior and should not be condoned by anyone for any reason in this day and age. Just like the lack of human rights in china, Korea, right here at home in all of north America, etc, etc.

    • Unacceptable says who, you? They are a sovereign nation. Stop with the hyperbole. Are you seriously comparing the human rights issues of China and (North) Korea to the U.S. and Canada?

      Our desire to bend other sovereign nations to our will have cause us a great deal of problems. We (I’m speaking on behalf of the U.S.) need to stop taking the moral high-ground and assuming we can dictate what’s right and wrong to the rest of the world.

  6. I just feel it would not be fair to punish the athletes for what the government is doing, I’m sure more than one is looking to make a stand. Should we not let them by boycotting? What if a Russian athlete wants to make a big stand? What if you see the Russians come out with a rainbow flag? I think it is better to use this opportunity to show our support rather than just not showing up. People will remember a specticale more than an absence. Sure we are fueling the Russian economy, but is that really such a bad thing, helping small buisieness owners that may or may not agree with the law.