Posted on August 19, 2013
Give Allies Like Lundqvist the Benefit of the Doubt
I saw a bit of a flurry of activity around Henrik Lundqvist and his support for gay rights this weekend, but it wasn’t until this Puck Daddy post that I had the full story in hand. It seems that, essentially, someone asked Lundqvist point-blank for his opinion on the Russian anti-gay laws and how they will affect gay athletes and their allies at Sochi next February, and Lundqvist declined to make a specific statement. People got annoyed, and he came back to remind everyone where he stands by linking to his You Can Play video, as well as stating that he thinks that part of equality is the right to speak or not speak.
The PD article finds Lundqvist in the wrong for pointing to his past words and not adding anything now. I don’t entirely agree. Certainly, I’d love to hear my favorite active goalie, the backbone of my team, say that Russia’s laws are awful and he’ll support the gay athletes and fans who attend Sochi. But Lundqvist is right: He doesn’t owe anyone any statement. And his involvement with YCP should be enough to allow everyone to know where he stands.
The PD article says that he should speak out because Henrik Zetterberg and Victor Hedberg spoke out. Well, perhaps that’s one reason why Lundqvist didn’t–two Tre Kronor teammates have already said something, and a reasonable person can assume that Lundqvist would agree with them. Why add to the noise? It’s possible their statements were their first public words on supporting gay rights (let me know if I’m wrong!), and maybe Lundqvist felt that was important to leave alone.
And, gosh, maybe he doesn’t want to make himself a target in case the Russian law enforcement decides to arrest anyone making even the slightest inkling of support to the gay community. After the Olympics, Lundqvist has to come back and finish the NHL season. He and the Rangers have to start talks about his contract extension, too. I don’t blame him for not wanting to rock the boat too much.
There’s a lot of talk in the social justice scene about what makes an ally a “real” ally, and when someone is just posing to look good. I don’t think Lundqvist is just posing, and I think gay rights probably mean quite a lot to him. But he doesn’t have to speak up every time, especially when doing so sort of goes against the very law he’s being asked to comment on.
Let’s be glad there are more athletes speaking up to add to the voices that already have. Let’s not scare away people who are thinking of saying something by making it look like they’re going to be obligated to speak publically every time gay issues come up from now to eternity.
UPDATE: Today Lundqvist spoke to Larry Brooks at the Post, and gave his personal opinion. Most importantly:
“Representing Sweden, I feel it’s best to keep the focus on the competition because that’s what makes the Olympics so special for the athletes.
“But of course as a private person, I will express my support for equal rights and my opposition to laws that go against that. I think I can use my position to do some good, but the time and the place have to be right.”
Sounds totally reasonable to me.