LaLiga clubs FC Barcelona and Athletic Club players come together for an anti-war demonstration before their match at Camp Nou on Feb. 27 (Marc Graupera Aloma/Europa Press via Getty Images)
MISCELLANEOUS

How the Sports World is Reacting to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

As the Russia-Ukraine crisis deepens, athletes around the world have responded with strong words ranging from condemnations to boycotts.

For the first time in generations, war has returned to Europe. Russia’s invasion of western neighbor Ukraine has arrested the attention of a global community shocked and aghast at the ongoing violence perpetrated on foreign soil by Russian troops and loyalists. Some of the strongest statements yet on Russia and Ukraine have come from the sports world, and Boardroom is keeping track.

IOC Recommends Ban of Russian, Belarusian Athletes (Feb. 28)

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee “recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions,” according to an official statement.

Notably, the IOC did not simply call for Olympic bans for Russia and Belarus or its athletes, but encouraged other sanctioning bodies across the world of sports to bar participation in a similar fashion.

International Paralympic Committee follows suit (March 3)

The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games will start Friday, March 4, but Belarusian and Russian athletes will no longer be participating.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced the ban Thursday:

“In other to preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus,” the IPC said, in part, in a lengthy statement. “To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce.  You are victims of your governments’ actions.”

Read the full IPC statement here.

Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel (Feb. 24)

The German race driver, whose four Formula 1 championships are tied for fourth all-time, spoke in no uncertain terms Thursday about Russia’s aggression in the region, pledging to boycott the F1 Russian Grand Prix scheduled for Sept. 25 in Sochi:

“For myself, my own opinion is I should not go, I will not go,” Vettel said. “I think it’s wrong to race in that country. I’m sorry for the people, innocent people who are losing their lives, getting killed for stupid reasons.”

F1 Speaks Out (Feb. 25)

Following Vettel’s statement, Formula 1 released a statement canceling September’s Russian Grand Prix:

“We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation,” the statement reads, in part. “On Thursday evening Formula 1, the FIA and the teams discussed the position of our sport, and the conclusion is, including the view of all relevant stakeholders, that it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix in the current circumstances.”

FAU calls for FIA ban of Russian and Belarusian drivers (Feb. 28)

The Automobile Federation of Ukraine (FAU) has requested for all Russian and Belarusian drivers be banned from racing in F1.

As relayed by Sports Illustrated, a letter sent by the FAU to the FIA included a request to place “a ban on licenses for Russian and Belarusian drivers, preventing them from racing outside of their home countries.” That would directly impact Nikita Mazepin’s ability to race for Haas F1.

Club Soccer

UEFA strips Russia of UCL Final (Feb. 24)

The biggest club competition in global sports will not be holding its championship match as planned. The governing body for soccer in Europe will reportedly move the UEFA Champions League Final from St. Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium, which was also a host venue at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Aeroflot and Manchester United (Feb. 24)

Aeroflot, Russia’s national airline, remains the official airline sponsor of world football giants Manchester United as of this writing. But since the belligerence in Ukraine began, the Red Devils did not take an Aeroflot flight to their Wednesday UEFA Champions League date with Atlético Madrid.

On Thursday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson took things a step further, announcing that Aeroflot had been banned from operation inside the country.

FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli (Feb. 24)

Before they kicked off their UEFA Europa League tilt at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, players from visiting Barcelona came together with hosts Napoli for a show of solidarity against the emerging war on the continent.

Champions League Final moved to Paris (Feb. 25)

After Thursday’s decision to remove the men’s Champion’s League Final from St. Petersburg, the UEFA Executive Committee “decided to relocate the final … to Stade de France in Saint-Denis,” a commune in Paris. The match will still be played on May 28. Read the full statement here:

 Roman Abramovich Cedes Control of Chelsea (Feb. 26)

After pressure from the British Parliament, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich announced he is giving up control of the Chelsea to its charitable foundation. Abramovich controlled the team for 19 years but has faced criticism due to his close ties to Putin.

Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt Stand Together (Feb. 26)

Prior to kicking off their match, Bayern Munich and  Eintracht Frankfurt stood together in solidarity against Russia’s war on Ukraine. As the teams lined up on the pitch, screens across the stadium read: “Stop it, Putin.” Throughout the stadium, fans had Ukrainian flags and declared their hope for peace. 

(Photo by Arne Dedert/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Zinchenko, Mykolenko embrace before Man City-Everton (Feb. 26)

On Saturday, Ukrainian national team defenders Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City) and Vitaliy Mykolenko (Everton) shared a touching moment before their club teams kicked off at Goodison Park.

Schalke 04 removes Gazprom as official sponsor (Feb. 28)

After covering up the name of Gazprom on its jerseys during Saturday’s draw against Karlsruher, Bundesliga club Schalke officially ended its sponsorship with the Russian state-owned oil company.

During the game, Schalke’s kits displayed the name of the club instead.

Lokomotiv Moscow manager Markus Gisdol resigns (March 1)

Hired fewer than four full months ago, Lokomotiv Moscow manager Markus Gisdol has resigned from his post. As he told German newspaper Bild:

“I cannot stand on the training field in Moscow, coaching the players, demanding professionalism, and a couple of kilometres away orders are being issued which bring great suffering to an entire people.”

Lokomotiv Moscow stated events differently, insisting that Gisdol had instead been “removed.” The club is owned by Russian Railways, a state-owned rail corporation. It was among the organizations formally sanctioned by the US government on Feb. 24 in response to the Ukraine invasion.

Premier League suspends Russian broadcast agreement (March 8)

The English Premier League (EPL) announced the league and its clubs “unanimously agreed” to suspend their partnership with Russian broadcaster Rambler (Okko Sport) immediately:

“The League strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the official statement reads, in part. “We call for peace and our thoughts are with all those impacted. The £1million donation will be made to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to deliver humanitarian aid directly to those in need.”

UK government sanctions Abramovich, halts Chelsea sale (March 10)

On Thursday, the British authorities formally sanctioned seven Russian oligarchs and froze a wide range of their assets, including Roman Abramovich.

As part of the sanctions, Abramovich’s intended sale of Chelsea FC hits a stalemate. And while the club can continue to play matches, only current season ticket holders will be able to attend home games at Stamford Bridge, official club merchandise sales are suspended, and no new player contracts or transfer agreements are permitted.

Click here to read Chelsea’s statement on the sanctions.

International Soccer

Poland, Czech Republic, and Sweden FAs speak out (Feb. 24)

In a joint statement Thursday, the football associations of Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic insisted that UEFA’s scheduled World Cup qualifying playoff matches not take place inside Russia next month.

Poland Refuses to Play Russia in 2022 World Cup Qualifier (Feb. 26)

Poland was set to play an away game against the Russian national team on March 24. However, on Saturday, Cezary Kulesza, President of the Polish Football Association declared that they would protest the match. In an official statement, Kulesza said, “No more words, time to act!” The statement received support from Poland’s biggest football star, Robert Lewandowski , who took to Twitter to declared it the “right decision!”

U.S. Soccer refuses to compete against Russia (Feb. 28)

The U.S. Soccer Federation joins the growing list of countries refusing to play against Russia in international matches:

The entity’s statement, in part, explained that U.S. Soccer “will neither tarnish our global game, nor dishonor Ukraine, by taking the same field as Russia, no matter the level of competition of circumstance, until freedom and peace have been restored” in Ukraine.

Swiss men’s and women’s teams will not play against Russia (Feb. 28)

Switzerland have qualified for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, but the team requested for Russia to be eliminated from World Cup qualifying play until peace is achieved in Ukraine.

A statement from the Swiss Football Association released Monday reads as follows:

“The SFV condemns the Russian attack on Ukraine, which not only blatantly violates international law but also the universal values ​​of football, such as the promotion of friendly relations, propagated in the FIFA Statutes. Our concern is for the affected people in Ukraine, especially the Ukrainian Football Association and all its members. The SFV supports the position of the federations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, who demand the exclusion of the Russian men’s national team from the play-offs for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. 

“‘In solidarity with these associations, the SFV will not be playing any competitive or friendly matches against Russian national teams until further notice. If necessary, this non-negotiable position of the SFV also explicitly extends to the first game of its women’s national team at the UEFA Women’s EURO in England on July 9, 2022 against Russia.”

FIFA bans Russia from 2022 World Cup; UEFA follows suit (Feb. 28)

The most powerful sports governing body in the world has dropped the hammer. FIFA will move to ban Russia from the remainder of the 2022 World Cup cycle, where they had not yet qualified for the final tournament in Qatar but were scheduled to compete in Europe’s elimination tournament for a chance to make it in.

UEFA, the soccer federation governing Europe, quickly concurred.

The bans are understood to be indefinite and refer to not just the Russian national team, but club team’s within the nation’s borders. That means Spartak Moscow, slated to resume UEFA Europa League play against RB Leipzig on March 10, is disqualified and banned from the tournament.

Adidas suspends kit partnership with Russia national team (March 1)

Adidas has suspended its deal with the Russian Football Union to manufacture jerseys for Russia’s national team effective immediately, reports the AP’s Rob Harris.

As Darren Rovell of The Action Network notes, the partnership had been in place since 2008.

NBA

Ukrainian Players Speak Out (Feb. 24)

Sacramento Kings center Alex Len and Toronto Raptors forward Svi Mykhailiuk are the only two Ukrainian players in the NBA for the 2021-22 season, and they released a joint statement early Thursday evening:

Kings and Nuggets Link Arms (Feb. 24)

Later Thursday night, the Kings and Denver Nuggets held a “moment of silence in solidarity” while linking arms at center court before their game:

Tennis

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Feb. 28)

The Russian women’s tennis star — ranked 14th amongst singles players on the WTA Tour — posted a lengthy statement to her Twitter on Monday.

https://twitter.com/NastiaPav/status/1498269581445632007?s=20&t=5ObLTkeuQ-pVMUta9DSENA

“I’ve been playing tennis since I was a kid,” wrote Pavlyuchenkova, 30, in part. “I have represented Russia all my life. This is my home and my country. But now I am in complete fear, as are my friends and family. But I am not afraid to clearly state my position. I am against war and violence.”

Elina Svitolina (Feb. 27)

The 27-year-old Ukrainian tennis player penned a “letter to my Motherland” and stated her allegiances to the country despite being “currently far away”:

Svitolina committed to “redistribute the prize money of my next tournaments to support [the] army and humanitarian needs” in defense of Ukraine against Russia’s ongoing attack. She urged “the world” to see Ukraine’s needs and help to protect her home.

Svitolina is ranked 15th on the WTA Tour.

Daniil Medvedev (Feb. 25)

The world’s top-ranked tennis player spoke to reporters on Friday at the Mexican Open. As a Russian, Medvedev expressed his concern with the war and indicated that it is a moment that makes him realize how small the game of tennis is in the context of the world’s events.

Andrey Rublev (Feb. 25)

Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev capitalized on his win at the Dubai Tennis Championship to make a statement. The 24-year-old signed the camera with “No war please.” Rublev plays doubles with Ukrainian partner Denys Molchanov, which Daniil Medvedev signaled as a “beautiful message of unity for the world.”

Boxing

Klitschko Brothers pledge to support effort (Feb. 24)

Brothers and former boxing champions Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko announced their decision to defend against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

Vitali, known as “Dr. Ironfist” during his heavyweight champion boxing career, is currently serving as the mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city — a position he has held since 2014.

Both Klitschkos are inductees in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Vasiliy Lomachenko finds his battalion (Feb. 27)

Vasiliy Lomachenko, one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and a former undisputed lightweight champion, was seen with his local territorial defense unit near Odessa.

Oleksandr Usyk joins the fight (Feb. 28)

Heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk has joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense:

The second-best heavyweight in boxing according to ESPN’s rankings, Usyk appealed to Russian President Putin in an Instagram video over the weekend:

Usyk, 35, won a gold medal in heavyweight boxing at the 2012 London Olympics while representing Ukraine.

EuroLeague Basketball

EuroLeague, EuroCup bar Russian teams (Feb. 28)

The world’s biggest and most prestigious club basketball competition outsde the NBA has joined the list of organizations mounting strong rebukes. All four Russian teams taking part in the EuroLeague and EuroCup will not be permitted to participate in the ongoing competitions.

WNBA

Brittney Griner Detained in Russia (Mar. 5)

As previously reported, WNBA players who were playing for teams in Russia set their sights on leaving the country. On Saturday, the Russian Federal Customs Service released a statement indicating it had detained an American basketball player who had “won two Olympic gold medals with the United States.” The timing of the detention is unclear, but reports estimate that it occurred between two and four weeks ago.

The individual has since been identified as Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner. The Mercury, the WNBA, and USA basketball have each released statements that it is aware of the situation and monitoring it closely at this time. The WNBA also confirmed that all other players have returned from Russia at this time. Boardroom will update this story with details as it unfolds.

WNBA players in Russia plan to leave (Feb. 27)

As reported Sunday night by ESPN‘s Mechelle Voepel, “Several WNBA players currently competing in Russia are making plans to leave the country as a safety precaution” — citing multiple player agents. The players in question were not identified “for safety reasons.”

Russia has been a popular offseason location for WNBA players to compete during the league’s offseason. The 2022 WNBA season is slated to begin May 6.

The WNBA had released a statement Thursday, Feb. 23, about the status of its players in Ukraine and Russia — relayed in ESPN’s report: “The few WNBA players who were competing this off-season in Ukraine are no longer in the country. The league has also been in contact with WNBA players who are in Russia, either directly or through their agents. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

Hockey

NHL condemns Russia (Feb. 28)

The NHL released a statement Monday stating the league “condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”:

“Effectively immediately, we are suspending our relationships with our business partners in Russia and we are pausing our Russian language social and digital media sites,” the statement reads, in part. “In addition, we are discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future competitions involving the NHL.”

Chess

The FIDE terminates ties with Belarus and Russia (Feb. 27)

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) shared a list of moves related to Belarusian and Russian involvement across the sport — including the stoppage of all competitive chess events being held in either country, as well as the removal of Belarusian and Russian flags and the termination of “all existing sponsorship agreements with any Belarusian- and Russian-sanctioned and/or state-controlled companies.”

EA Sports

EA to remove Russian teams from FIFA, NHL video games (March 2)

“In line with our partners at FIFA and UEFA, EA Sports has initiated processes to remove the Russian national team and all Russian clubs from EA Sports FIFA products,” read an official statement released Wednesday.

EA notes that the changes will apply to FIFA 22, FIFA Mobile, and FIFA Online, but that they are exploring additional changes. There is a similar plan in place for the company’s NHL franchise as well.

Running

2022 Boston Marathon (April 6)

The 2022 Boston Marathon will not include runners from Russian or Belarus “who were accepted into the 2022 Boston Marathon or 2022 B.A.A. 5K as part of the open registration process and are currently residing in either country,” the Boston Athletic Association announced in a statement.

The B.A.A. clarified that Russian and Belarusian citizens who are not current residents of either country will still be able to compete, but “they will not be able to run under the flag of either country.”

This year’s Boston Marathon is scheduled for Monday, April 18.

This post will continue to be updated as events unfold.

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