Philadelphia Flyer Ivan Provorov who did not skate last Tuesday with teammates because of his religious reasons over the pre game Pride Night sweaters. Legal experts say that punishing Provorov for not skating with the team over the Pride sweaters are infringing on his rights. (AP News file photo)
Why can Sports be Just Sports?
That’s Amaury News and Commentary
By Amaury Pi-González
National Hockey League, Philadelphia Flyers defense-man Ivan Provorov was criticized for refusing to wear LGBT colors on his uniform during Pride Night with the Flyers, sitting out their pregame warmups. Provorov cited his religion, Russian Orthodox, as he said: “I respect everybody, everybody’s choice” and “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion”.
Flyers head coach John Tortorella defended Provorov; “Provy did nothing wrong,” he added. “Just because you don’t agree with his decision, doesn’t mean he did anything wrong.” Provorov did play in the eventual 5-2 win in which the Flyers wore their standard home jerseys, after skipping the warmups.
Most people that pay to see a sporting event (which is not cheap) are there to escape and enjoy themselves, most do not care what a hockey player believes or doesn’t believe, they want to see a good game, a few goals and maybe even a good fight. That’s the truth. Most of the time nobody cares, they are attending and paying good money for a sporting event, and they’re not there to debate sociopolitical issues, if they wanted that, Yale, Harvard or Stanford is the place.
However, things happen in sports that have little to do with sports, here are a few:
In 1967 Muhammad Ali was the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world. On April 28 of that year, with the United States at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three years. Ali was at one time the most recognizable American on the face of the earth, in many countries much more than the President of the United States and Hollywood movie stars.
On August 2016. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down (took a knee) during the national anthem at an NFL preseason game between the 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. It divided the NFL and the country. Kaepernick said about his action: “It is to protest the injustices that are happening in America, the oppression that is happening in America”. Kaepernick played for the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2016, he did not get a chance to play again with the 49ers or any other NFL team after his famous knee.
Perhaps the most famous and memorable incident was during the 1968 Olympic Games in México City. US Athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith were banned from the US team and the Olympic Village after holding up their fist during the American national anthem from the winner’s podium of the 200-meter. Smith and Carlos protested against racial discrimination in the US.
Enes Kanter Freedom was an NBA player who frequently spoke against the Chinese Communist government (not the people of China) for their repression and human rights abuses against minorities. This is well documented by Amnesty International, a Human Rights non-profit watchdog.
Human rights in China continue to deteriorate, with arbitrary mass detentions, torture, and forced labor against Muslims in various provinces of the country. Also, there is no secret China represents a huge money maker market for the NBA. Enes Kanter (born in Switzerland) became a US citizen last year and added Freedom to his last name.
I am not against protests, we have the right under the First Amendment of the US Constitution to protest, which falls under freedom of speech, as well as freedom of the press or the right for people peaceable to demonstrate. However, in a such complicated world, sports is one area that we should all enjoy, and leave our grievances at home.
During the recent World Cup in Qatar Iran’s soccer players refused to sing their national anthem ahead of the World Cup opening match. These players feared possible execution once they returned home. They were supporting worldwide demonstrations following the death of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini who was arrested by The Guidance Patrol, the religious morality police of Iran’s government for not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards. She was killed for that, These Iranian Soccer players showed incredible courage, considering they were facing death when they returned home. One thing is to lose your job, another is to lose your life.
The world is complicated, what’s perfectly legal in the US could cost a person their life in other countries. That is why when we travel abroad we should also make sure we obey the laws of the country we are in. Just like if you get invited to a friend’s house and the host ask you “please do not smoke” it is simply common sense.
We all know what happened with basketball star Brittney Griner in Russia, who was arrested carrying a substance that in Russia is illegal, when she was impassioned for months and used as leverage for a deal with a world famous criminal, all in the middle of a war between Russia and Ukraine.
I have always noticed: In sports, a lot is done in the arena in a short amount of time, but that is not possible with politics, they talk and talk and talk, and takes forever to get results. In the end, when it comes to the world of sports, that is one of the few places in this complicated world where we should be able to forget our problems. That is why I often wonder, Why can Sports be Just Sports?
Amaury Pi Gonzalez does News and Commentary podcasts Tuesdays at http://www.sportsradioservice.com