Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin has come under widespread scrutiny in recent weeks for his longstanding relationship with Vladimir Putin.
In the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month, Ovechkin called for “no more war” in front of reporters, but wouldn’t dabble into his relationship with Putin.
Currently, Ovechkin’s Instagram page features a profile photo of himself next to the Russian President, which has remained for the past several years. In 2017, Ovechkin founded “PutinTeam,” a social movement to show support for the country’s head of state.
In an appearance on the ESPN Daily show last week, reporter Emily Kaplan dove into why Ovechkin has kept Putin in his Instagram profile picture, despite pressure to remove it.
But Ovechkin declined, citing fear for the safety of his family in Russia.
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“I know a lot of people are wondering about that Instagram photo,” Kaplan said on the show. “It’s such a bad look. Why won’t he just take it down?’ I was told that the Washington Capitals have asked Ovi to take it down. They’ve asked him to deactivate his Instagram account.”
But Kaplan said that Ovechkin fears possible ramifications for his family members should he make changes to his social media accounts.
“We don’t understand a lot of these nuances and complexities back home,” Kaplan added. “Ovi each time has told them if I do both of those, I really feel like that is a sign back home that I am speaking out against Putin. And I feel like my family is in danger. And the Washington Capitals have to respect that because that is how he feels.”
Ovechkin has not posted on his Instagram account since January 22.