The Washington Capitals have become the subject of much controversy in the National Hockey League over the past few days, thanks in large part to the organization's captain Alexander Ovechkin.
Due to the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine Ovechkin has become the target of widespread backlash from a segment of the hockey fan base and has also lost a number of prominent sponsorship deals over the course of the last several days, including CCM and MassMutual insurance. Ovechkin has become a lightning rod for criticism because of his particularly close association to Putin, including campaigning for the Russian president's reelection back in 2017. When he was asked about the invasion of Ukraine, Ovechkin also opted not to criticize the Russian government or Putin himself for the actions, which in the end only caused the criticism against him to intensify.
The Capitals have not done themselves any favors either with recent reports that the organization has been banning Ukrainian flags from Capital One Arena, specifically as it pertains to a game that took place this week between the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes. An image posted by Instagram user Antoinette Cordova claimed that she and her friends came to the game with Ukrainian flags and were barred from entering the arena with them, once again prompting a firestorm on social media.
ESPN's Greg Wyshynski dug into the matter but was told by the Capitals that the decision was made in accordance with Capital One Arena's sign policy, and you can see the relevant section of that policy in the tweet below.
This unfortunately has only furthered the negative public perception that some have had regarding the Capitals in this matter, thanks in large part to yet another tweet. This time the tweet comes from Polish journalist Pawel Zuchowski, who recorded a video that clearly showed a fan with a Russian flag was allowed inside the building in spite of the updated policy at Capital One Arena.
There have been some indications that this may have been the result of overzealous security officials at Capital One Arena however. Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks tweeted out an image of fans holding up a Ukrainian flag against the glass during warmups.
I must say though, this flag appears to be significantly smaller than the one is the photo published by Antoinette Cordova, and perhaps more importantly it looks to be the size of one that you could carry on your person while concealing it from security at the door. I suspect that, given the amount of public attention this story has received, we can expect to see this new policy put to the test over the course of the Capitals next several home games at Capital One Arena.