NHL

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NHLers must take stance on gay rights

High-profile Olympic athletes should stand up to Putin

  • Print
Riot police (OMON) guard gay rights activists who have been beaten by anti-gay protesters during an authorized gay rights rally in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, June 29, 2013. Police detained several gay activists, who were outnumbered by the protesters. Dozens of gay activists had to be protected by police as they gathered for the parade, which proceeded with official approval despite recently passed legislation targeting gays.

DMITRY LOVETSKY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Riot police (OMON) guard gay rights activists who have been beaten by anti-gay protesters during an authorized gay rights rally in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, June 29, 2013. Police detained several gay activists, who were outnumbered by the protesters. Dozens of gay activists had to be protected by police as they gathered for the parade, which proceeded with official approval despite recently passed legislation targeting gays.

Gay rights for some or gay rights for all?

For all, of course, and that's why the repeal of NHL player participation in Sochi must be used as a threat to eliminate Russia's anti-gay law.

It's not enough that the NHL promotes equality in its rinks in North America. It must do it world-wide.

NHL players wield the biggest of sticks when it comes to the Winter Olympics and they need to use it to support gay rights -- just like they did in rinks all across North America last winter as part of a campaign to promote You Can Play.

It's You Can Play. Not You Can Play some places but not others.

You Can Play is a foundation whose mission states it is, "dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation... seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete's skills, work ethic and competitive spirit."

Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law last month banning the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear.

The IOC has defended its presence in Russia for the 2014 Winter Games at Sochi on the basis they have "received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games."

But it'll be right back to "shut your mouth about your gayness," as soon as the Olympics are over.

All Out co-founder and executive director Andre Banks says, "Holding the Winter Olympics in Sochi with these laws in place is like holding the Games in Johannesburg at the height of apartheid."

How would the NHL respond if there was a law banning the discussion of rights for Jews or blacks or women? It wouldn't send its players to promote those games and provide those games with its centre-piece attraction, which hockey has become.

The NHL and the NHLPA's views on gay rights are very clear. Both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr have put the weight of their offices behind You Can Play. Last winter videos were played in NHL arenas featuring league players sharing the foundation's message.

"Our motto is 'Hockey Is For Everyone,' and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way.

"While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players' Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands," offered Bettman.

NHL players are the most high-profile athletes at the Olympics. They can have the most effect. They can say no to Putin's law and force the IOC to apply pressure.

Or they can promote silence. Like Putin wants for gays and their supporters.

Taking a stand will come with risk -- the risk of missing out on a medal. But the reward of helping people be free to live their lives as they choose should be viewed as far greater than any moment of personal glory.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Should the NHL repeal player participation at the Sochi Olympics to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 8, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 7:18 AM CDT: Addsphoto

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Cheap summer weekends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- WINTER FILE. Snowboarder at Stony Mountain Ski Hill. November 14, 2006.

View More Gallery Photos

About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

Poll

How surpised are you by the Bombers’ 4-1 start to the season?

View Results

Ads by Google