Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Pavel Datsyuk's Comment On Russian Anti-Gay Law Leaves Fans Defensive, Upset

I was exploring Columbus and what it had to offer in terms of rec league hockey today, and I came home to some disappointing news. Pavel Datsyuk, in an interview with Russian reporters, was asked about homophobic comments from a fellow Russian Olympic athlete. Whether he tried to avoid the question or not is unclear but he answered with a somewhat vague “I’m an orthodox and that says it all”. The Internet then proceeded to explode.

Much in a way that it exploded when Victor Hedman and Henrik Zetterberg spoke against the anti-gay law Russia has become so well known for recently, or when Henrik Lundqvist said literally nothing about it.  This no doubt puts a blemish on how Datsyuk is viewed by Red Wings’ fans. It’s not going to be as easy to remember the mushroom-picking, YMCA dancer with something like this. Likewise even cool things like that goal against the Kings after Drew Doughty knocked him into the middle of next week seem disturbed.

The news of the interview was met with mixed reactions. Some have tried to extend a little understanding as to why he might think this way.











Others have gone out of their way to try to justify it.

Personally, I don’t think enough people are holding Datsyuk’s feet to the fire on this, and I’m really trying to understand why. In this modern day, it’s hard to find anyone that doesn’t think Russia is in the Stone Age with its anti-gay laws. There are those who chalk this up to Datsyuk’s upbringing and country of origin, and I’m really having a hard time seeing it from that point of view. Considering the situation, Datsyuk in a room full of Russian reporters, one might be able to understand why it was tough to dodge a question. A country that’s been getting slammed in the media for it’s laws, inside and outside the world of hockey could understandably go up to one of it’s own athletes and essentially ask ‘hey, you’re still cool right?” I don’t envy Datsyuk’s situation and frankly I think if we continue to blast athletes about politics they may decide not to share their beliefs ever again. When it comes to an issue like this, there’s something to be said for making enemies regardless of how you answer such a question.

There’s also something to be said for having the shoe on the other foot. If Russians were criticizing American laws because the winter Olympics were being held in America, I’d probably be pretty upset. I’d like to think that a human rights issue supersedes the do unto others argument. Is it appropriate to do so? Who’s to say? I’d like to think it does supersede this but all I really have to back that up is that I’m an American and naturally think I’m right. Anyone who thinks that has worked out well in the past need look no further that U.S. foreign policy for the last decade and a half or so.

I’m starting to get sick of the political ramblings of the Olympics for two reasons. One, I’m having to learn the right way to spell a lot of other players’ names and it’s confusing and I often end up triple checking my spelling even though I’m totally right. Two, sports are supposed to be fun. Talking about athletes and their antics and accomplishments is supposed to be fun. Talking about politics has never been fun for me. And now instead of looking forward to some weekly columns about the hockey world, one line quotes are being turned into political columns. That’s not fun for me. I don’t see how talking about this stuff week after week is fun for anyone, but if it is to you more power to you I suppose. I want to talk about potential trades and Mikhail Grabovski maybe signing with the Caps and who the Wings are about to get rid of and why. That’s fun. Things like this bring me no joy.

It’s always easy for us to point out what someone else should have said, but when you’re in the hot seat it’s rarely that easy. Maybe the athletes shouldn’t be to blame though. Maybe it’s our fault for taking this much of an interest in what athletes have to say about these issues in the first place. As I mentioned, I hate talking about politics and I usually couldn’t care less about what someone has to say about a cavalcade of social and economic issues the country faces today. But I’m just as guilty as anyone else is of fueling the fire of hockey politics. When the Tim Thomas white house drama went down I couldn’t read enough about it. And even today any time I see a headline featuring an NHL player and Russian anti-gay laws I HAVE to click and find out more. Maybe that kind of mentality is part of the problem. If no body really wanted to read about it, surely no one would write about it, right?

Maybe it’s our fault for putting athletes up on a pedestal the way we do.  I honestly believe that if this were Justin Abdelkader or Drew Miller or some hypothetical Russian 4th liner (does Detroit really not have any?) I doubt this story makes much of a splash. But because Pavel Datsyuk is so good at hockey, we expect more. He scores lots of goals and we’ve seen lots of really charitable hockey players score a lot of goals. Maybe it’s a symptom of what we’ve seen before; maybe it’s a symptom of hero worship. But if Datsyuk doesn’t lead the Wings in goal scoring and carry them through the playoffs while simultaneously running a shelter for puppies, turning around the Motor City’s economy and single-handedly supporting a Habitat for Humanity chapter in his off time, we as fans feel let down.

It may not be reasonable to expect Datsyuk to alienate his home country to please his North American audience. At the same time, it may not be reasonable to excuse such dark age thinking in modern times, especially to someone who’s traveled the world and seen what life is like outside Russia.

At the end of the day, I think Datsyuk’s views on this subject are archaic and instead of writing about defending him we should be writing about how backwards his home country is, and by his own admission, his views are.  I don’t buy pinning it on his religion for a second, but religion is a whole other can of worms. I do think, however there’s way more to this on a bigger picture. While I won’t be burning his effigy in the street, I don’t think we should give him a free pass just because he does really well for our team. If we find it appropriate to crucify someone for an opinion we disagree with, we should be willing to crucify that person regardless of the team he plays for, even if it’s our favorite. And I hate the month of August and there’s nothing to write about and god bless it, can it be training camp yet? Hopefully with time this fades from memory a bit and characterizations of Datsyuk move away from this and back towards when he did awesome stuff like this:


Tags: Detroit Red Wings NHL Pavel Datsyuk

  • PeteRockD

    The bigger question is why is everyone getting so bent out of shape about this? While I, even as Russian Orthodox myself (though raised in the US), disagree with Russia’s laws, Datsyuk is completely entitled to his own opinion–no matter how he got there, whether it’s religion or some other thing. That is where it should have ended. Beyond that it becomes hypocritical to lambast someone for their personal views simply because they don’t match up with “what we expected” or what we think. That is the thing everyone seems to be forgetting in this, he has the right to his own opinions and shouldn’t be thought of any less. He’s not running for office here in the US, Datsyuk has NEVER enjoyed being in the media spotlight and so he ends it with a simple statement meant for the RUSSIAN media and RUSSIAN audiences (of whom the vast majority actually agree with him) who will all understand exactly what he means (specifically the term “I am Orthodox” is MUCH MORE than a religious statement in Russia, it essentially is the equivalent of saying “I am Russian” or… how we would say “I am an American”).

    What exactly were people hoping or want Datsyuk to say in that situation? If he actually was against the laws and speaks out – everyone who is grilling him in the Canadian and US media today move on with their lives, and he becomes a villain in his home country RIGHT AFTER being awarded as the best Russian player in the NHL. Or he ignores it, and people like Ryan Lambert and others in the media who are crucifying him right now call him a coward, and he gets pressed continually at home. What if he came out (or even comes out later) and says something along the lines of “Look, I think everyone is free to live their life how they want, but I happen to find homosexuality morally wrong?” How would that be handled? In one breath he essentially says the laws are wrong, but he’s against homosexuality? He didn’t come out and say “Yeah we need to be hanging gays in the streets.” This should have been nothing more than an “Oh well” moment and everyone moves on, and that is what it should become. Pavel’s opinions don’t make him any less of a hockey player, and he should still be praised for all of the good work he does do in the community both in Detroit and abroad. Just because his opinions don’t match up with the views of in reality only 55% of Americans according to polls, everyone is getting bent out of shape. Oh no, Pavel Datsyuk is human, he has his own opinions! Last I checked, even when he arrives in the US, he is free to express his own opinion, he is free to express his religious faith, and he is able to speak his mind how he wants – regardless if it doesn’t match up to each and every one of our own opinions.

    • John Evans

      That isn’t a bad point Pete, and I don’t think anyone is focused so much on Datsyuk not having an opinion so much as they’re focused on the modern civil rights issue that seems to be in the spotlight. I disagree with your statement about him not wanting to be in the spotlight based on what he’s done in interviews as well as his social media use (both tend to attract a lot of attention and I love him for them).

      And just as I mentioned in the article, it seems people are going to make enemies regardless of what they say, even if they say nothing. And I’d love to see where the poll came from because I don’t believe that wasn’t subjected to bias for a minute. Like I said, he’s kind of caught up in a human rights issue. Thanks for reading!

    • DKeat80433

      He has a right to his opinion and we have a right to criticize him for it and to not support him as a player and role model on the public stage. His opinion happens to support human right violations. He does not deserve to be looked up to.

  • Andrei

    Why are the democratically enacted laws of the Russian Federation any of your business?

    Suppose Russian journalists came to the USA and starting asking questions of American athletes and then crucified them in the media for supporting their own government ‘s laws as happened to Yelena Isinbayeva – How well do you think that would go down?

    You go on and on about free speech and yet you deny it to foreign nationals speaking in their own country? .

    • John Evans

      If you had bothered to read the article you would have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about free speech. You also would have noticed that I did try to put the shoe on the other foot when I specifically mentioned Russian journalists if the Olympics were in the US. But I guess it’s cool that you read the headline and decided to comment.

    • DKeat80433

      I know exactly what the law says and it is a disgrace to humanity. It assumes gay people are harmful to children. It assumes being gay is harmful to a person. It’s a disgrace and it and anyone who supports it should be called out at any opportunity in any place.

      • John Evans

        I can believe that but I honestly wouldn’t jump on board with that assessment of the law unless I read it myself. I can’t help being a skeptic!

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  • Steve Clarke

    Maybe we,the Red Wings, should just release Datsyuk because he has an opinion that doesn’t fit with ours – be done with it.

    We could also leave him alone and respect him for what he is and his contribution to the team. Might make too much sense though.Too easy.