No NHL players in the Olympics? Ignorance and arrogance are to blame
By Anthony Moretti  ·  2021-12-24  ·   Source: China Focus

The National Hockey League (NHL) and the league’s Players Union announced that no NHL players would compete in the upcoming 2022 Beijing Olympics.

If you accept the stated reasons, then the league and the players had no choice but to call off plans to take part in the Olympics. According to the Washington Post, roughly 15 percent of the league’s players are currently quarantined because of coronavirus and 50 games have been postponed. League officials and the players believe they might not be able to complete the 2021-22 season on time if the league continues forward with plans to shut down for more than two weeks in February while top players take part in the Olympics.

That conclusion seems rather dry, but it is frankly a byproduct of a more bitter reality that exists in the United States, Canada and throughout many nations in the West: Not enough people have taken the virus seriously, and, therefore, they have refused to get fully vaccinated. Their selfishness continues to damage the economic, social, cultural, political and medical well-being of their societies. They do not care and they will not accept that fewer vaccinated people increase the risk of everyone contracting the virus.

Dinamo Riga’s Lukas Radill (left) vies with HC Vityaz Moscow Region’s Igor Rydchenko during the 2021-2022 Kontinental Hockey League. (XINHUA)

On top of that, if Western nations had aggressively pursued policies that ensured more vaccines had reached the world’s poorest countries, the Delta and Omicron variants would have been tamped down. I did not say eliminated; the virus still would have mutated, but it would have infected far fewer people.

We will never know exactly how many people, but that is not the point. Rather, what is important to remember is that ignorance and arrogance throughout the West remain among the primary reasons the world remains gripped by the pandemic. If private citizens and governmental leaders had acted more like the Chinese, there is every reason to believe the global situation would have been much different today.

Yes, we must also blame politicians such as former U.S. President Donald Trump and British prime minister Boris Johnson — and ironically both men contracted coronavirus in 2020 — for failing to acknowledge that during a crisis the societal good is more important than the individual good.

If they had done more in the early stages of the pandemic to encourage people to get vaccinated while pursuing perhaps unpopular but necessary lockdown plans, the West would have been in a much better shape today. Instead, they laid a foundation in which tens of millions of people saw any governmental effort to rein in coronavirus as an impingement on personal freedom. Sadly, it is far too late to change that myopic thinking.

Earlier this week, the mayor of Boston, announced a plan that will require anyone 12 years old or older to show proof of vaccination in order to enter any of the city’s indoor businesses and facilities. But Mayor Michelle Wu undermined her message in two ways. First, she said the policy would not go into effect until Jan. 15, 2022, meaning Bostonians and anyone else visiting the city during the chaotic holiday season would be allowed to carry on as if the pandemic were some kind of mirage. At least in Boston, crowded malls filled with people buying more and more Christmas and holiday gifts matters more right now than being safe.

People line up to get inoculated outside COVID-19 vaccine buses in London, Britain, on December 6, 2021. (XINHUA)

The mayor also said the city’s professional basketball and hockey teams were exempt from the plan. Athletes — whether playing for the NBA’s Celtics, the NHL’s Bruins or any of their opponents — did not need to prove they were fully vaccinated. Fans? Yes. Players? No.

In other words, millionaire players competing on teams owned by billionaires can operate under different health rules in that city. Every Bostonian, vaccinated or not, should be asking why athletes are getting benefits not available to everyday Joe and Josephine American.

But, again, when the determination is that the capitalist machine will not be slowed down even during a pandemic, leaders make choices that defy common sense. So as tax dollars continue to funnel into America’s cities so, too, do more people into America’s hospitals.

Sadly, the NHL and the Players Union had only one choice available to them, and they made it. The integrity of the NHL season will continue to be compromised so long as more and more players contract the virus and more and more games are cancelled. Yet, it is impossible to ignore that decisions aligned with putting country ahead of citizen and health ahead of hedonism might have made a real difference throughout the West. Fans of the Olympic hockey tournament will still watch what to unfold in February, but all of us will know that the ignorance and arrogance displayed regularly by too many Western leaders and people are the reason we are not seeing in China, the best in the world.

The author is Associate Professor, School of Informatics, Humanities and Social Sciences at Robert Morris University, the United States.

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