Russophobia in Western Sports Media

Collective Stupidity, Illogic, and Immorality

Article 33: Individual responsibility, collective penalties, pillage and reprisals. “No protected person may be punished for any offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

— Fourth Geneva Convention

Rick Westhead of the Canadian sports network, TSN.ca, has presented the opinion of Bruce Kidd, a former Canadian Olympian, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and the school’s ombudsperson, advocating that the government of Canada suspend future travel visas to Russian athletes because of Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine.

The western legacy media has been conducting its own witch hunt, calling on Russian athletes to denounce their fatherland. Hockey superstar Alexander Ovechkin decried war and was criticized afterward for “deliberately squandering an opportunity to make a real difference in this world” and for his relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Russian Alexander Medvedev, the newly ascended number one male tennis player and his compatriot, Andrey Rublev, ranked number seven in the tennis world, were also called onto the media carpet where they stood for peace.

That a sports website can be so opinionated can be shrugged off. But that its senior correspondent, Westhead, and a university professor emeritus, Kidd, would give such a poorly thought out opinion, one that is so morally repulsive, is disappointing. They have succumbed to the blatantly obvious logical fallacy of guilt by association.

Kidd notes that Canada — ignoring that Canada is an apartheid country itself — fought apartheid by banning South African professional golfers and tennis players from competing and training in Canada in 1988. Kidd claims that banning South African athletes was an effective tool in bringing an end to apartheid. Whether or not the ban was successful is besides the point. It is morally wrong.

Preceding the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Bible forcefully argued,

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.

— Ezekiel 18:20

The Russian athletes are not politicians. They do not have a say in the day-to-day decisions of the government. Yet TSN.ca holds that Russian athletes should be banned based on the happenstance of their birth, regardless of their views on the fighting between Russia and Ukraine.

There are several other moral quicksands in which Westhead and Kidd sink. Implicit in the argument propounded by TSN.ca and Kidd is that Canada is some paragon of morality. Far from it. That being the case, another piece of biblical wisdom is pertinent. When men, as prescribed by Mosaic law, were poised to stone a woman for adultery Jesus intoned: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

COAT (the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade), with an eye to Ukraine, has called upon the Canadian government since last October to cease the funding of groups that glorify Nazi collaborators.

Canada has its own nasty history, past and current. It is a country established through genocide, a genocide that is ongoing. Witness the weaponized gendarmerie of Canada trespassing in unceded Wet’suwet’en territory to raze buildings and arrest Wet’suwet’en defenders and media members. And why? To force through a corporate pipeline despite the unanimous opposition of the hereditary chiefs.

Do TSN.ca, Westhead, and Kidd condemn the great crimes in their backyard and call for the banning of Canadian athletes from competition?

Did TSN.ca, Westhead, and Kidd call for the banning of Ukrainian athletes while Ukraine was shelling Donbass for the last eight years? Do they even know the history of the region?

Do they know that the United States and NATO shrugged off Russia’s security concerns about NATO’s eastward expansion. That the eastward expansion represents a violated promise of the US secretary-of-state James Baker to USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev to not move one step further eastward? Bear in mind that former president Barack Obama absurdly declared Venezuela a national security threat to the US. Recall that president Ronald Reagan raised the alarm of a Central American threat, saying: “I’m speaking of Nicaragua, a Soviet ally on the American mainland only two hours’ flying time from our own borders.”

Have TSN.ca, Westhead, and Kidd condemned Israeli war crimes, apartheid, the siege on Gaza, and slow-motion genocide against Palestinians? Have they denounced grave Israeli war crimes against Syrians, Iraqis, and Iranians? Have these sports pundits called for a ban on Israeli athletes?

Canada, which occupies First Nation, Inuit, and Michif territory, is a staunch ally of the self-designated Jewish State that also occupies all of historical Palestine, the Golan Heights in Syria, and the Shebaa Farms in Lebanon?

Does TSN.ca call for the banning of American athletes? In recent times, the US devastated Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria (with the support of Canada). The US occupies an area of Syria, an area of Cuba, Guam, Saipan, and more. Hawai’i was annexed, and there was no referendum by Hawaiians seeking such a union (unlike in Crimea). The continental US represents a colossal genocidal theft by European settlers/colonialists. The military-industrial-governmental complex of the US has been warring around the globe and breaking promises and treaties with Russia. Do TSN.ca, Westhead, and Kidd realize any of this or do they just refuse to denounce this?

Are they aware that the Ukrainian government is a $5 billion US-leveraged coup by Neo-Nazi elements that form part of the government and military in Ukraine?

Having recognized the independence of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia had available the Responsibility-to-Protect doctrine used by NATO. Or do TSN.ca, Westhead, and Kidd think this doctrine only applies to western nations? In which case that would only compound the prejudice shown by the TSN.ca talking heads.

Crimes and punishment must not be pick-and-choose affairs. All crimes must be denounced and punishment meted out must be equitable.

Every side loses in war. But for a government to neglect the security of its territory and citizens, especially as a self-declared foe draws nearer and nearer while arming neighbors in the region, would be a severe dereliction of duty. Russia, which was twice denied NATO membership, made overtures, stated its red lines, sought mutual security guarantees and was pretty much dismissed. Russia was pushed. It is human nature, rightly or wrongly, that when one is pushed to want to push back.

It is hoped that the Russian invasion ends soon with as few casualties as possible, that Ukraine is denazified, and that the US and western world will henceforth realize that western hegemony and bullying will no longer be tolerated in a multi-polar world. It is past time that the US return the militarily occupied Chagos archipelago to the Chagossians, stop stealing Syria’s oil and end its illegal occupation there, stop financing Israeli crimes against Palestinians, stop supporting the Saudi war against Yemen, return the Afghan people’s money to Afghanistan, and have its junior partner in crime, Great Britain, return the gold it confiscated from Venezuela. If so, then a lot of good will have come out of Putin’s steely resolve.

The next step, the ultimate step, is to end war everywhere. The nations of the world must be verifiably disarmed. There are other urgent and important battles to be fought and won. Poverty must be eliminated. The environment must be rehabilitated and stewarded. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases, for which militaries bear a huge responsibility, must be reined in.

Finally, until that glorious day when militaries are no more, let’s not go down the rabbit hole of witch-hunting and penalizing otherwise uninvolved athletes for the decisions of politicians.

Image credit: The Island

Kim Petersen is a scuba diver, independent writer, and former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.