A Spoiled Sports Fan: The sports world should continue to exclude Russia


Credit: Theo Ghosh

In the latest installment of A Spoiled Sports Fan, Emily Roberge discusses the implications of the University of Southern California and the University of Los Angeles’s decision to leave the Pacific-12 Conference for the Big Ten Conference.

Emily Roberge

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is horrifying. There’s no other way to put it: Vladimir Putin is truly evil and his quest for Russian power has done irrevocable damage. No increase in gas price in the United States can compare to the destruction that Russia has caused in Ukraine. It’s real people we are talking about, real stories of Ukrainians who are proud of their heritage and who are not letting a monster strip them from their Ukrainian identity. Among those who are denouncing Putin’s inhumane invasion, athletes have also spoken out against Putin, trying to spread awareness through their platforms. Maybe, there is still some hope left in humanity.

Most of us tend to get lost in our own problems. We have an inherent tendency to assume that our issues are the world’s issues, when really, for most of us, it could be a lot worse. I know I am no stranger to this. Although it might feel like life or death when your favorite sports team loses the championship or your team loses the big game, it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, athletes have begun to notice that.

The world has started to speak out against Russia’s actions. Putin doesn’t seem to be listening. But, it’s worth a try. Take Andrey Rublev as an example. He is a Russian tennis player who condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On Feb. 25, after advancing to the final at the Dubai Championships, he wrote “No War Please” on a TV camera. It’s these moments where athletes need to realize it’s just a match and just a game. Rublev did just that. And, he couldn’t have said it any better.

“In these moments, you realize that my match is not that important,” Rubley said after his victory. “It’s not about my match, how it affects me. You realize how important (it) is to have peace in the world and respect each other no matter what, to be united. It’s about that. We should take care of our earth and of each other. That’s the most important thing.”

As for the rest of the sports world, I normally am one to call out athletes and organizations for their moral issues, but I don’t have many complaints this time. I’m proud of how the athletic community has criticized the evil actions of Putin. He deserves it.

As the Russian invasion in Ukraine continues, many have found ways to put pressure on Russia, whether it’s through sanctions or banning them from attending certain events. One way to punish someone for their wrongdoings is to hit them where it hurts, literally. In this case, this involves taking away what Putin loves: winning. That’s exactly what the International Olympic Committee did when they prevented Russian and Belarusian athletes from attending the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Soon later, the soccer world condemned Russia’s actions. FIFA initially suspended Russia from the 2022 World Cup, ejecting the team from qualifying; however, FIFA has now decided to allow foreign players in Russia to break contracts. As for banning Russia from playing in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it’s complicated. There’s still much discussion left to happen. Regarding FIFA’s decision for foreign players, the move is still temporary, as it would allow 100 players to seek new teams for the rest of the season. And, that’s the right decision for foreign players who signed with Russian teams. They shouldn’t face the brunt of a decision of actions outside of their control. That’s one positive.

If I’ve learned anything from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s that the competition and the thrill of sports aren’t really important in the grand scheme of things. It’s what sports can do for others, uniting us together against war that matters. That’s a lot coming from a spoiled sports fan.