When Henrik Zetterberg and Victor Hedman publicly spoke out against Russia's anti-gay laws, we openly wondered what would happen when reporters approached the NHL's Russian players. Well, here's one.
Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk was asked point-blank his thoughts on teammate Zetterberg's thoughts. His response:
"That's his opinion. My position—I am Orthodox. That says it all."
The Russian Orthodox's position on gay people is exactly what you'd expect.
If you're not a hockey fan, Datsyuk is one of the most talented and respected players to ever take the ice. So, does this semi-no-comment, that in actuality leaves little room for ambiguity, mean "it's time to view him in a different light," as Travis Hughes writes?
Reaction has been...all over the place. Sean Gentille and Ryan Lambert are blasting Datsyuk. Greg Wyshynski is more reserved, putting it into the context of religion. Others have noted that as one of Russia's most visible athletes, Datsyuk is bound to toe the company line ahead of the Sochi Olympics. Above all, it's fair to say that Datsyuk is getting some benefit of the doubt that he wouldn't if he weren't Pavel Datsyuk.
There are big, important issues here, but more immediately, what were we expecting from Datsyuk? If this is what he genuinely believes, should he have lied to avoid the ire of a vocal segment in his country of employ? Should he have offered a no-comment, for all the good that did Henrik Lundqvist? Do we really only want to hear about our athletes' ideologies if they agree with our own?
We're all free to say what we want. He's free to be down with jailing gays for being gay. I'm free to say Datsyuk's stance is a monstrous, backward one with tangible, negative consequences for millions of people. He's free to continue being awesome at hockey. I'm free to continue being impressed by his awesome hockey, even while occasionally reminding myself, "Yeah, he's a caveman who thinks some people don't deserve basic human rights" then immediately going back to rooting for him. Sports tend to get really complicated once the more important stuff pokes its way in. The only given is that what should be a good in for a constructive discussion will turn into anything but.
Just consider this a warm-up for when Alexander Ovechkin is inevitably asked for his views. You should try to be nowhere near the internet that day.