Artemi Panarin, who plays for the New York Rangers in the NHL, is one of Russia's best hockey players. He is also one of the least popular.
You see, Panarin had the guts to criticize Vladimir Putin. This put him in the clear minority of Russia's athletes: it's Panarin and... chess player Daniil Dubov? Is that it?
Putin's personality cult would do his predecessors proud, and Russia's athletic masses are united in their support of the autocrat. (Did you see how he gave himself permission to
run for be elected continue to be president for two more terms eternity?) The country's biggest hockey star, Alexander Ovechkin, is a devout Putin stooge, and the mass of the country's citizens tend equate Putin love with patriotism. And when Panarin dares to be so unpatriotic... (Even though one could — should — make the case that by speaking out against Putin's injustice, Panarin is more patriotic than his ring-kissing compatriots.)
Is this where we mention that Panarin's grandfather is named Vladimir Ilyich Levin (oh, one letter away from Vladimir Ilyich Lenin makes such a difference!), making Artemi a quarter Jewish?
Well, it's not like he can get less popular in Russia than he already is...