Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk both defended their country's anti-gay 'propaganda' laws last week

Ilya Kovalchuk delivered an ironic defense of Russia’s anti-gay laws

Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and hockey stars Kovalchuk and Datsyuk have defended the country's oppressive rulings.

I’m not sure how I missed this.

Last week, Ilya Kovalchuk responded to – and defended – his own country’s vile anti-gay laws with one of the more ironically offensive comments you’ve heard since probably yesterday.

“I agree, of course,” he said. “I’m Russian and we all have to respect that. It’s personal and, like I said, it’s a free world, but that’s our line. That’s our country, so everybody has to respect that.”

The fact someone would use phrases like “it’s a free world” and “we all have to respect that” and “it’s personal” to defend the oppression of an entire community of people is downright hilarious, and just a little more infuriating.

I wonder who else is using those exact same lines, in that exact same damn country?

Now, you could say Kovalchuk was just trying to survive in a country where apparently 84 per cent of its people feel the same way (according to Russian site RT). Still, his words don’t exactly sound like an athlete who’s only interested in staying politically neutral, or toeing the party line.

They sound like someone who’s given it some thought. They sound like someone who – if he had Putin’s chair – would have implemented the exact same laws and thought less than twice about it.

Kovalchuk’s words followed those of fellow patriot Pavel Datsyuk, who took the classical (and cowardly) religious route:

“My position – I am Orthodox,” he said. “That says it all.”

Ah, yes. Apparently, it’s a choice to be gay, but your own beliefs… those you’re born with.

Forget faith in faith. My faith in humanity is shaken whenever I hear someone has a greater allegiance to ancient novels than they do to their fellow man or woman.

Canadian, American, and Swedish players have so far blasted – or, politely disagreed with – Russia’s 21st century totalitarian spell, with guys like Dan Boyle and Braden Holtby taking the most vocal stance, so far.

“On Russia’s stance, I don’t agree with it,” said Boyle. “I just don’t agree. I think, gay or not, that shouldn’t change anything. Not a big fan of that.”

Holtby:

“It’s hard to go into a country that supports something like that… I don’t think (a boycott) would do any good. I think it would cause more problems than it would solve. But I think it’s an opportunity for athletes to get together and support a cause that I think a lot of us really have a passion for. And I think we can do lot of good for it.”

Sidney Crosby was also outspoken in his disapproval of the laws of the former (or, current?) Soviet Union when he was asked about it at Canada’s Olympic orientation camp last week.

“For me growing up in Canada, my view has always been that way,” he said. “I think that everyone has an equal right to play and I think we’ve been supportive of that. With the Olympics and the controversy around that I think those decisions and those laws aren’t necessarily something that I agree with personally… their laws and their views.”

Yeah, your politeness is respect, but I think we’re going to need a little more.

Live and let live isn’t good enough. When people are being jailed, beaten, or even killed for simply being who they are, the ones who can actually make a change (i.e. all of us) need to actually push that change through. We need to be the ones with the swords in our hands.

The ones who currently benefit from the system can’t simply stand on the sidelines and let the scene unfold. They need to actually pick a side and defend the oppressed. They need to fight for them.

The Olympics won’t change anything, so we shouldn’t expect it to. The IOC doesn’t care, anyway. They’ve never cared.

The Olympics ran in Berlin in 1936. The Olympics ran in Beijing in 2008. The Olympics patted itself on the back and heralded itself as an equal opportunity defender because one woman from Saudi Arabia ran dead-last in the London Games in 2012. The Olympics is fused together by one of the biggest organizations in the world, yet it acts like an observer. An enabler.

Sure, it’s progress, but there’s a lot more to be done. There’s always a lot more to be done.

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