Ever since the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov declined to wear a rainbow jersey on “Pride Night” and cited his Orthodox Christian faith as the reason why, the performative outrage from the sports media has been… well, no different than any other day because the only form of discourse our sports media is capable of is performative outrage.
And since these same sports media figures engage in shouty windbaggery in a desperate attempt to disguise their complete inability to weigh contradictory ideas or think for themselves, there was one angle to this controversy so stupid as to be inevitable.
I’ve only been to two hockey games in my life — and one was in New Orleans, where my big takeaway was serving hard alcohol to hockey fans is a baaaddd idea — and I quickly deduced that Ivan Provorov is Russian. You know who else is Russian? Voldemort Putin, that’s who.
On Wednesday, NHL Network’s Senior Reporter E.J. Hradek went on air and declared, “Ivan Provorov can get on a plane any day he wants and go back to a place where he feels more comfortable, take less money and get on with his life that way if it’s that problematic for him.” And for good measure, Hradek suggests that Provorov should go join the Russian army and fight Ukraine: “I understand there’s a conflict of sorts going on over there, maybe get involved.”
Set aside for a moment, the suggestion that one should leave America — specifically, the city of Philadelphia where they drafted the Constitution — for exercising basic First Amendment rights. The bit about getting on a plane to go back to Russia was a little on the nose. Hradek might want to watch this bit of actual Russian propaganda designed to discourage Russians from immigrating to America:
In the video, a Russian family is on board a plane excited to be moving to the “freest country in the world … the land of opportunity.” They are soon repelled by an onslaught of political correctness. The two women in the row in front of them are married, despite one woman referring to her spouse with male pronouns. The Russian man is forced to let a black man cut in line to use the bathroom, ostensibly as some kind of reparation, and when he questions why this is happening it all ends with people getting on their knees and apologizing. They are asked to stop eating meat on the plane because it offends the vegetarians seated next to them. And so on.
Suffice to say, you don’t have to be some alt-right Putin stan to find what is on some level hyperbolic propaganda an actually effective critique. I’m old enough to remember the Cold War pretty well, and it was plainly understood by most Americans that the antidote to Soviet state-sponsored oppression was tolerance and classical liberalism. Since we’re apparently unclear what the latter ideals mean anymore, that meant granting people with different ideas, lifestyles, cultures, and religions equality under the law and expecting various communities to coexist peacefully by respecting each other’s God-given Constitutional rights.
David Harsanyi has already compared this foofaraw to a classic Seinfeld episode with “Who Doesn’t Wear The Ribbon?!” As recently as the ’90s, even liberal comedians understood that there was something un-American about the overweening pressure to virtue signal, and ironically for our purposes, the ribbon in the Seinfeld episode was almost certainly a coded reference to the red AIDS ribbons that were ubiquitous on lapels of the era.
Now it seems self-righteous Western liberals have decided the way to combat Putin’s state-enforced cultural hegemony is by enforcing a cultural hegemony of their own — and it’s defined by a narrow set of values they are arrogantly trying to force into becoming universal, because in doing so, it justifies their own superiority. (There’s more than a soupçon of plain old self-loathing anti-Americanism stirred into this hellbroth as well.)
Of course, I hate to break it to these people, but their rejection of classical liberalism in favor of combatting “repressive tolerance” is the kind of backdoor Marxism Putin and his KGB colleagues once plotted to inject into American discourse to weaken us. And if sanctimonious clowns like Hradek are so convinced refusing to wear rainbow uniforms is the same as fighting for Putin, well, I humbly suggest he grab a rifle, fly to Ukraine, and start slapping rainbow patches on the Azov battalion’s BDUs and report back on how they react.
Further, we all know that some bigots are more equal than others — if a hockey player who refused to wear the pride jersey were of Middle Eastern descent and cited his Islamic faith, the Dick McShoutersons in sports media would be strangely silent, content to let the discussion be dominated by Atlantic op-eds about post-colonial nuance written by someone who pretended to read Edward Said in college.
This is ultimately the justification Putin, and a whole lot of other bad actors on the global stage, employ when using Western governments as a foil to solidify their corruption and control domestically: “If you don’t rally around me, Western leaders and corporations are going to come in and destroy your culture and trans your children.” Every time there’s a culture war blow-up where Western liberal elites decide to punish outgroups for wrongthink, it only helps Putin and his ilk. (It’s probably also worth mentioning this isn’t just a problem we have with dictators — even the French are exasperated by identity politics and political correctness becoming one of America’s chief exports.) Unfortunately, we’ve cultivated media empires that revolve around people who are exorbitantly and unjustly compensated for their ability to wake up angry every day that somebody somewhere is allowed to disagree with them.
But for the sane people who don’t find telling people what to think borderline erotic, it’s obvious a society that practiced actual tolerance would be the true repudiation of Putin. After all, just imagine a place where gays and Christians could live side by side, both would be given a respectful hearing, and threats to ruin one’s livelihood for publicly acknowledging your beliefs would be rare.
As Yakov Smirnoff would say, “What a country!”