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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Forcing people to take political stances based on nationality is wrong. Period.

A The Left Chapter Editorial.

Players from the 2007-2008 Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings with war criminal George W. Bush

Since the Russian attack on Ukraine there have been several alarming notions gaining traction in the west. Among these is the idea that Russian citizens or people of Russian background living in the west should be forced to denounce or disavow their country and its leaders in order to continue to work at various jobs, perform or play sports.

In some cases this has already led to dismissals. As The Guardian (UK) reported:

The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra has sacked the star Russian conductor Valery Gergiev after he failed to speak out against the invasion of Ukraine or distance himself from his close friend and supporter Vladimir Putin.

That is some serious "guilt by association".

NHL star Alex Ovechkin is likewise facing calls to denounce Putin. So far he has not, losing him sponsors, but the hypocrisy of this is pretty transparent.

In a move that outright lays bare the bigoted nature of such demands and moves, "CCM Hockey, an equipment and apparel brand based in Canada, will no longer use Russian star and Washington Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin or any other Russian in global marketing campaigns to promote its products."

Read that again..."or any other Russian".

"We are very sad to witness, like the rest of the world, what is happening in Ukraine," chief executive Marrouane Nabih wrote in an email to TSN. "Although Mr. Ovechkin is not responsible for the Russian government’s actions, we took the decision to not use him (or any Russian player) on any global CCM communication at this point."

This is a blanket ban of people based entirely and exclusively on their nationality.

While it may be hard to get too worked up about pro-athletes losing sponsorships the idea that it would be framed in such terms is disgraceful and will not be applied to hockey stars alone by any means.

While some will argue that it is akin to calls in the present and past to ban national teams from competing due to apartheid regimes in places like Israel and South Africa, even if one accepts that that is what should happen to Russian national teams that is not what we are talking about.

We are talking about Russians who are working in the west as individuals and that is an entirely different type of ban, one that is clearly discriminatory.

It is worth remembering as well, as a Facebook comment stated:

A lot of emigres oppose the regime in their home country - and left because of it - but can't say anything publicly because they still have family in the home country and either don't want to endanger them or want to remain free to go back home and visit them (or just go back home to visit friends). If we're going to start expecting every Iranian émigré to publicly denounce Iran or every Chinese emigrant to publicly denounce the Chinese government as a condition of employment a lot of people are going to face discrimination for no other reason than their place of birth.

China and Iran are cases where reactionaries in the west have already made calls for people from those countries to denounce governments or political parties or face job losses or other persecution. Some have suggested the members of the Chinese Communist Party should even be barred from entering countries like the United States or studying, researching or teaching there.

Forcing people of certain nationalities or backgrounds to make political statements if they want to continue to work, perform or play sports is deeply and obviously wrong.

How anyone who is on the left or is a progressive could fail to see this is both astounding and scary. It is developing as a kind of neo-McCarthyism that fits right in with the new Cold War.

It is tremendously dangerous, has very disturbing past precedents in the west -- including the internment of Japanese North Americans during the Second World War as just one of many examples -- and needs to be 100% opposed.


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