One big thing: One year since Russia invaded Ukraine
The GIST: As discussed on yesterday’s episode of The GIST of It, today marks one year since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. To honor the solemn anniversary, let’s take a look at the war’s impact on the global sports landscape, especially as Russia’s efforts to sportswash their heinous actions continue.
Athlete restrictions: Immediately following the invasion, Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes were systematically excluded from international competitions, with bans ranging from the Champions League to F1, as well as the Olympics and Paralympics.
Brittney Griner: Though the news didn’t hit until after the invasion, Griner was wrongfully detained on February 17th while traveling to Russia to compete during the WNBA offseason. Over the nearly 10 months that followed, Russian president Vladimir Putin used BG as a political pawn before finally agreeing to a prisoner swap in December 2022.
- The Phoenix Mercury star is back home and gearing up for the new W season, but the saga unsurprisingly has made many athletes hesitant to compete abroad, despite the lucrative paychecks.
Sportswashing: Russia’s no stranger to stirring up global conflict…and trying to cover it up. The 2014 Sochi Olympics were contentiously hosted at a site tied to the Circassian genocide. Similarly, the 2018 men’s World Cup was played in Russia despite calls for it to be moved following the country’s annexation of Crimea, among other controversies.
Zooming out: Russia’s sportswashing trend is especially concerning given reports that the International Olympic Committee is considering allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under neutral flags at the upcoming 2024 Paris Games, even as nations speak out against it.
- As Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “There is no such thing as neutrality when a war like this is going on.”