We know know why Alex Ovechkin still has a picture with Russian President Vladimir Putin up on his Instagram account.
Hockey fans have been calling for Ovechkin to remove the picture ever since Russia invaded the country of Ukraine on Feb. 22. Ovechkin’s Instagram account has 1.6 million followers and is wildly popular.
Ovie’s official Instagram display photo features the NHL legend posing with Putin. Ovechkin doesn’t change his Instagram profile picture often and has had the same profile photo for several years. Ovechkin is smiling and holding the “peace” sign while posing with Putin.
Prior to the war, Ovechkin was known for having a good relationship with Putin. Ovechkin has visited the Kremlin in the centre of Moscow and has celebrated major hockey victories with Putin. Ovechkin even fed Putin champagne out of the Word Championship trophy back in 2014.
Although Ovechkin has a relationship with Putin, many of Ovie’s fans expected him to speak out condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ovechkin did address the invasion, but he never fully disagreed with Putin. Ovechkin simply called for “no more war”.
After calling for “no more war”, Ovechkin chose to keep his Instagram profile photo with Putin. Fans have been flooding to Ovechkin’s social media channels to ask him why the picture is still there. Ovie has also been booed by opposing fans during recent NHL games.
According to the New York Times, there’s a simple explanation for why Ovechkin hasn’t changed his Instagram profile photo. The Times reports that Ovechkin’s “no more war” comments have drawn criticism from supporters of the war in his home country.
“Ovechkin was advised not to change his Instagram profile picture because it would not go over well in Russia”
According to the Times, there was actually a plan in place to change Ovechkin’s Instagram picture to a world peace symbol after the press conference. But since Ovechkin’s wife, two children and parents are currently in Russia, it was decided the photo of him and Putin would stay.
A podcast by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan further confirms Ovechkin’s worries about his family’s safety.
Kaplan reports the Washington Capitals have asked Ovechkin to remove the photo of him and Putin from his Instagram profile picture and/or deactivate his Instagram account. Ovechkin has denied the Capitals’ request each time, however, citing fear for his family’s safety if he were to do so.
So far, Ovechkin and Calgary Flames’ defenseman Nikita Zadorov are the only Russian NHL players who have spoken openly about their country’s invasion of Ukraine.