Alex Ovechkin, Vladimir Putin, and the mired line of sports and politics

I’ve always favored the Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin when it comes to the prominent players of the NHL in the last decade. It has to do with character and showing more depth than just being a player. He’s a person and a silly one at that.  And I’m talking off-ice stuff here, not just around-the-game shenanigans common in the NHL.

There’s more than that old commercial out there, but hunting down the off-ice stuff is tough when his hockey things take video priority.

This, his character,  comes chiefly in comparison to Sidney Crosby who has always come off as a stolid, cold figure. Crosby’s biggest feat is inspiring antics from rivals. Like Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban taking a fresh breath into a Stanley Cup Finals game.

As for Ovechkin, things are souring for me somewhat. It’s not because of on-ice incidents or the Capitals in general. It’s not Brayden Point-vs.-Ovechkin in the NHL goal-scoring race. It’s not sports at all. It’s politics and awareness of Ovi’s political allegiance to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ovi is a fan, a big fan, a big supporter of Putin. That wouldn’t mean anything (he supports his president, that’s national pride) if it weren’t for what’s been playing out since 2016 and the state of America at the moment.

Unless you’re in denial, a conspiracy theorist nut, or don’t follow the news of the world whatsoever, you should know by now that Mother Russia has meddled in the U.S. election system. Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign appears to have been aided by Russia and Vladdy the Baddy (the Mueller probe is finding plenty of faults in the Trump campaign, and this is one of them). Unsurprisingly, Putin happens to be an Ovechkin fan; he received one of Ovechkin’s Capitals jerseys from Trump this past summer during a summit in Finland.

So what is Ovi’s direct relationship with Vladimir Putin? What does he think about the allegations and mounting evidence of electoral interference? Is Ovi a Trump supporter too, even though his teammates aren’t in one way or another? You won’t get that kind of questioning from the media covering the Caps or NHL, but there is a conversation to have with Mr. Ovechkin about things. 

I realize people involve themselves in sports in part to get away from news, politics and other issues of the world. Hell, while I ran Raw Charge, one rule I had on the site was a ban on politics in the coverage or community chatter.  Part of the reason politics should stay away from sports is because it divides us in the same fashion a sports-team rivalry riles us and keeps us at odds with our opponents. To have fans of the same team at odds with each other because of this-and-that of an off-field ideological or political position ruins the solidarity that is supposed to embody a fanbase.

Of course, politics is up front in the sports world the past two years or so with thanks to protests by players in the NFL and NHL during the national anthem. One can see the actions as a national disrespect, but those who are aware of the motivation behind it can understand the actions (even if they don’t agree). Voicing dissent is a right, even in sports. This dissent is in a very benign display.

Alex Ovechkin is in politics by rallying for the Russian President. It’s worth discussing, countering the keep-it-out-of-sports aspect. I can’t say supporting a political figure known for offing his critics and political rivals on top of marring the government of a world leading nation, isn’t as benign.