Russian President Vladimir Putin’s enemies are known to face painful deaths. This doesn’t necessarily need to happen at the barrel of a gun in mother Russia, mind you. Nerve poison is oft employed to knock out opponents living abroad.
If they don’t face death, there’s always the possibility of imprisonment. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing a 15-year extension of his prison sentence on transparently preposterous charges of embezzlement, for instance. Lesser figures can still end up in the modern-day gulag.
And despite all that, Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev just made himself a marked man by coming out against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
After a match in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Friday, Rublev wrote “No war please” on a camera — an act of defiance that carries huge risk, even for a major tennis star.
In fact, it’s more risk than President Joe Biden’s administration has been willing to stomach. The Western Journal has been on top of the White House’s failures in dealing with Putin’s Russia, particularly with the president’s pusillanimity when it comes to sanctions. If you want to help us to bring readers the truth about the president’s failures, you can subscribe today.
According to ESPN, Rublev, the seventh-ranked player in the world, made the anti-war gesture shortly after advancing to the final at the Dubai Championships by beating Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz.
Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev writes "No war please" on the camera following his advancement to the final in Dubai. pic.twitter.com/GQe8d01rTd
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 25, 2022
Rublev had made similar comments — albeit less explicitly anti-Putin — the previous day.
“In these moments, you realize that my match is not important. It’s not about my match, how it affects me,” Rublev said. “What’s happening is much more terrible.
“You realize how important [it] is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what, to be united. It’s about that. We should take care of our earth and of each other. This is the most important thing.”
As Clay Travis, radio host and impresario of sports website Outkick the Coverage — noted, this isn’t something any Russian, much less a prominent one like Rublev, does lightly.
“Given the threats a Russian athlete can face from its government, this is what speaking truth to power actually looks like,” Travis said in a tweet. “And this takes true courage.”
Given the threats a Russian athlete can face from its government, this is what speaking truth to power actually looks like. And this takes true courage. https://t.co/aAhmxf7vu5
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) February 25, 2022
It’s worth noting Rublev’s act drew praise across the board. Travis is a conservative; here’s arch-progressive economist, Clinton-era secretary of labor and prolific social-media oversimplifier Robert Reich similarly praising Rublev:
In a country where dissent is often violently quashed, it is a courageous act to speak out. I applaud the Russians who are brave enough to stand up against this war. https://t.co/JVLrr4fEXl
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) February 25, 2022
It’s obvious why this earned plaudits across the spectrum. As an object lesson in how much guts this took, we can look at hockey star Alexander Ovechkin — a Russian who said he didn’t want war, although with nothing like the directness of sentiment that Rublev displayed.
“Please, no more war. It doesn’t matter who is in the war — Russia, Ukraine, different countries — we have to live in peace,” the Washington Capitals star said Friday in comments made after practice, according to ESPN.
Asked whether he supported the invasion: “I’m Russian, right? It’s not something I can control. It’s not in my hands. I hope it’s going to end soon and there’s going to be peace in both countries. I don’t control this one.”
He added that the Ukrainian invasion was “a hard situation” for him personally.
“Obviously, it’s a hard situation. I have lots of friends in Russia and Ukraine, and it’s hard to see the war. I hope soon it’s going to be over and there’s going to be peace in the whole world,” he said.
Again, one doesn’t wish to fault Ovechkin for letting this cup pass from him, at least not too harshly. The fact many of us know the name of the Soviet-era nerve poison Novichok is because, in these post-Soviet days, Putin has an unnerving habit of using it on his opponents, according to Insider.
However, you don’t even need the threat of Novichok to cave these days. Consider LeBron James during l’affaire Daryl Morey. After Morey, then general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of Hong Kong democracy protesters in the face of a crackdown by Chinese authorities, James said Morey “wasn’t educated on the situation.”
LeBron James rips Daryl Morey, says Morey was uneducated. Says, “We do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negatives that come with that too.” Really. pic.twitter.com/ZTw6a3FZ5n
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 15, 2019
“We do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negatives that come with that too,” James said in 2019. Less than a year later, he said he considered joining the post-George Floyd protest movement that spawned the most costly riots in American history, yet curiously didn’t speak out about the negatives that came with that particular flavor of free speech. One might be forgiven for thinking that was never his concern in the first place.
It’s not too difficult to suss out the why in LeBron’s cowardice. If he was making as much money from sneakers in Saint Petersburg as he was in Shanghai, James would be excoriating the tennis star for his lack of education on the Ukrainian invasion if asked about it during a Lakers’ postgame news conference. Forget risking prison or death — he’s not willing to risk his contracts.
In a world like that, we need more Andrey Rublevs.