Ovechkin: Supporter of Team Putin

Until Team Putin invades another country, and then “I’m not in politics, I’m an athlete.”

Strange how Ovechkin, the non-political-athlete, started a social movement to support Putin, announcing it on his Instagram account on November 2, 2017:

But now that Team Putin is invading a neighbouring country, killing soldiers and endangering civilians, “I’m not in politics, I’m an athlete.”

Sanctions for the Washington Caps until they get rid of their “just-an-athlete-who-supports-Team-Putin”?

I do wonder exactly how much autonomy Ovechkin has, and how carefully he has to measure his words and decisions. On the one hand he’s very famous and very popular so maybe he could get away with speaking his mind on politics. On the other hand there are people he cares for in Russia, and Putin is known for blackmail, extortion, and assassination. It would not surprise me if he was pressured to start Putinteam, or if he was under considerable pressure to continue supporting Putin. I don’t know that for a fact, I’m just saying that whenever athletes from an authoritarian country praise their leader I wonder how much of it is genuine.

I could see Putin pressuring him to not speak out against him. But surely, even Putin would have found it acceptable if he had pulled the apolitical “I’m just an athlete” from the start?

Ovechkin reportedly has family in Russia, so his tap-dancing for “peace” is understandable, if not exactly laudatory.


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I imagine a lot of Russian athletes are being very careful of what they say about Putin right now, at least those who have still have family back at home.