You Can Play and the Sochi Olympics.
Above, you can see the intersection of NHL players who have been selected to participate in Olympic training camps for their countries, and who have been in videos supporting the You Can Play Project, speaking out for tolerance, equality, and speaking out against homophobia in sports.
You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about the new laws that Putin’s regime has signed in Russia regarding LGBT individuals and supporters. In case you’re not familiar with what’s been happening, here’s a quote from the New York Times op-ed on the topic:
” Just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail.”
- New York Times, July 21, 2013
For those of us who enjoy sport, freedom, civil rights, and the belief that all humans are created equal, this is a horrifying thing. For openly gay or lesbian athletes (not to mention trainers, family members, and fans) this is a potential nightmare.
For us Hockey Fans, there’s some concern to be had too- because even though there are no out, openly gay players in the NHL, the league is working hard to be more tolerant, and a number of players have publicly voiced their support in videos for the You Can Play Project. (I applaud this, if you couldn’t tell!) 14 of them have been invited to participate in Olympic Training camps, and could find themselves in Sochi come February.
All of them could be considered “pro-gay” under this series of new laws. All of them could be detained or arrested. All of them could be accused of disseminating “homosexual propaganda” for their participation in these videos- which according to a law passed in June, may now actually be classified as “pornography”. That is how insane these laws are.
So I just want to take a minute to appreciate that these players who face the ludicrous reality that when they go to play in the Olympics, they (along with multitudes of others) face the potential for imprisonment, fines, and detainment because they’ve had the balls to stand up and say “Enough of this bullshit. If you can play, you can play.” Because they’ve spoken a truth which most reasonable people can acknowledge, and while that’s nothing compared to what the LGBT community living in or planning to visit Russia are enduring, I think it’s worth acknowledging.
For the record: The players above are, in alphabetical order (not order pictured): Dustin Byfuglien, Zdeno Chara, Jordan Eberle, Claude Giroux, Duncan Keith, Ryan Kesler, Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Brooks Orpik, Corey Perry, Dion Phaneuf, Carey Price, Steven Stamkos, Shea Weber