russian,-belarusian-nhl-players-facing-‘discrimination-and-racism’-amid-conflict-in-ukraine,-agent-says

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NHL players from Russia and Belarus are facing an immense amount of harassment since the attacks on Ukraine began last week, and several of them have even received death threats, according to one agent who is asking people to “stop looking at them as aggressors.” 

Dan Milstein, a Ukrainian-born agent who represents the majority of those athletes being targeted in the league, told ESPN this week his clients have become concerned for their safety as they face increasing harassment. 

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“The discrimination and racism these Russian and Belarusian players are facing right now is remarkable,” Milstein told the outlet. “We’re being set back 30 years. I have players calling me, parents calling me. They’re concerned whether they’ll be able to play, whether they’ll be safe.”

Dan Milstein represents Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Dan Milstein represents Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Milstein has a unique perspective on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Now a U.S. citizen, he was born in Kyiv and arrived in the United States when he was 16 as a political refugee. He now represents 75% of Russian and Belarusian players in the NHL, according to ESPN. 

He told the outlet some of his clients have received death threats, adding that he was recently targeted by someone on the street who called him a “Nazi” and was urged to “get back to your country.” 

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“Clients are being called Nazis,” Milstein said. “People are wishing that they are dead. These are human beings. These are hockey players. These are guys contributing to our society, paying millions of dollars in taxes to support the U.S. and Canada and doing all kinds of charity work back home. Stop looking at them as aggressors. Stop being racist.”

Nikita Zadorov of the Calgary Flames, one of Milstein's clients born in Russia, posted a message on Instagram Friday:

Nikita Zadorov of the Calgary Flames, one of Milstein’s clients born in Russia, posted a message on Instagram Friday: “No War.” (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Several international sports federations have made calls to ban Russian players from competition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The NHL released a statement Monday condemning the attacks but expressed its sympathy for Russian players who it says play “on behalf” of their clubs and not Russia. 

“We also remain concerned about the well-being of the players from Russia who play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL clubs and not on behalf of Russia,” the statement said. “We understand they and their families are being placed in an extremely difficult position.”

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Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals takes a breather on the boards during a timeout against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center Feb. 17, 2022, in Philadelphia.  

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals takes a breather on the boards during a timeout against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center Feb. 17, 2022, in Philadelphia.   (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Milstein echoed that sentiment, saying his clients’ biggest concern is their families. 

“While some of my clients can speak freely in the safety of being in North America, their family could be scrutinized back home and anything could happen,” Milstein said. “I’m a proud American, so I ask, let’s come together united. My own childhood home is being bombed as I speak to my friends back home. 

“I haven’t slept in six days because this is such a difficult time. But people are picking on the wrong crowd. I can speak on behalf of my clients. They want world peace like everybody else. They’re not being treated like that.”

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