Vulgar Opinions: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sochi?
I’m not going to pretend that this is solely the Sabres’ problem, or even solely the NHL’s problem, but the concerns that the International Olympic Committee, in its cowardice, failed to address do find their way back to them both. Oh right, I should backtrack a little:
For those that don’t wander too far outside sports news, Russia has recently introduced a series of draconian anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender laws that have banned anything that could be deemed “LGBT Propaganda,” and allowed the Russian government to arrest LGBT and LGBT-supporting nationals and tourists alike with impunity. This has, among other things, resulted in four Dutch tourists being arrested for “promoting homosexuality,” resulted in several activists being arrested for the crime of wearing rainbow suspenders, and resulted in a series of savage beatings of LGBT individuals that the Russian authorities have generally allowed to happen without consequence.
Luckily the IOC has received assurances from the highest levels of the Russian Government that Russia will suspend the LGBT beatings for Olympic participants and spectators. Good for them. It’s comforting to know that an LGBT athlete will be able to compete safely in Sochi while their counterpart in Moscow gets beaten within an inch of their life while officers look on (or help). Again, I applaud the IOC for its bravery.
If you’ll recall, the NHL recently committed itself to LGBT inclusivity in partnering with the You Can Play Project. And while it’s certainly not fair to deprive athletes of something they’ve spent a lifetime working towards, I have to wonder just how exactly LGBT fans and LGBT allies are supposed to watch this spectacle? Should it be like walking into a movie theater where we have to forget that things like Hobbits and Wizards don’t exist for the purposes of enjoying that which is thrust before me? Should I read the coming series of benign NHL updates and Buffalo Sabres tweets while trying as hard as possible to forget about my LGBT brethren being kicked and punched and stomped on in state-endorsed violence? After all, sports and life don’t intersect. Just kidding, that’s crazy, these things are as interwoven as anything.
The question in the title is one without an answer. Well…the correct answer is that the IOC puts on its adult pants and doesn’t allow a country with third-world social laws to host the Olympics, but we’re past that point. I don’t know how the NHL or the Sabres should respond, although it’s probably likely that the latter will take the ‘sports are about sports’ line and simply shove its head in the sand while tweeting about Vanek and team Austria. Similarly, it is a little weird for the NHL to make a commitment to the LGBT community and then remain silent on Sochi, but they can probably do so and escape most negative press unless a major incident occurs. Maybe the spirit of the Olympics is escapism and it is for a moment supposed to be all about sports.
But I’m not a child, and information doesn’t get funneled through precious few sources anymore. It’s almost impossible to willfully lack perspective. So, how do you solve a problem like Sochi?