[Updates at bottom of post.]
The organization that oversees the athletic games that are organized to promote international friendship and understanding may demand two American athletes remove from their helmets an image of a statue that was designed to promote international friendship and understanding, because everything is political nowadays.
According to a report by USA Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is considering whether to demand that two goalies on the U.S. women’s hockey team, Nicole Hensley and Alex Rigsby, will have to remove images on their helmets that show the Statue of Liberty.
The IOC had originally demanded that the images be removed for violating their rules prohibiting uniform designs that display “the wording or lyrics from national anthems, motivational words, public/political messaging, or slogans related to national identity.”
U.S. women's hockey goalies may have to remove Statue of Liberty image from masks https://t.co/zpHSumOXuH
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) February 13, 2018
The goalies on Team USA all have different custom designs on their helmets. Maggie Rooney, who was the starter in USA’s 3-1 victory against Finland, apparently did not have the Statue of Liberty included in her helmet’s graphics. USA Today describes Hensley’s helmet as displaying the Statue on the left side of her mask, and Rigsby’s on her chin.
USA Hockey representatives had continued to push for a reconsideration, and spokesman Dave Fischer told reporters that “discussions are ongoing” with the IOC, which is expected to reach a decision before the puck is dropped Tuesday morning for the Americans’ game against Russia.
The “Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World,” as Lady Liberty is officially titled, is a 151 foot tall copper statue that was a gift to the United States from France in 1886. According to the official National Parks Service website for the Statute, it is “recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.”
Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, the Statue wears a crown with seven points, representing the seven seas and seven continents of the world, holding her torch aloft to bring her welcoming message to the world.
It’s a concept that is in harmony with the ethos of the Olympic Games themselves, with their five rings logo symbolizing the countries that come together in peace for athletic competition.
As USA Today columnist Dan Wolken noted, the Statue of Liberty is “probably as unifying and apolitical a symbol as the United States has ever had.” Moreover, as Wolken observed, past USA hockey goalie masks have been more blatantly political:
As recently as 2006, goalies for the U.S. men’s hockey team were covered in political images. According to a New York Times story from the Torino Olympics describing how each of the three goalies got custom-designed masks for the Olympics, Robert Esche had an image of the World Trade Center and a cartoon of Uncle Sam. Rick DiPietro went even further, with the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and an M1 rifle painted on his mask.
The major difference between 2006, when those far more controversial masks were deemed in compliance, and 2018, is that Donald Trump is President. So is this the international version of Trump Derangement Syndrome? It sure sounds like it.
“[I]f the IOC goes through with this ill-conceived ruling on the Statue of Liberty, it sure seems like it will be making a mountain out of a molehill in the name of clapping back at Trump’s America,” wrote Wolken.
UPDATE: Sanity prevailed. Lady Liberty remains.
The IOC has decided to allow the Statue of Liberty image to stand on Team USA goalie masks. https://t.co/itQ9UdRk2U
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) February 13, 2018
The IOC is engaging in some bizarre retconning to deny that the request to change the helmets’ design was ever made, but at least they ended up at the right decision in the end.
On the Team USA hockey helmet 'story' – there seems to have been a misunderstanding, we have not asked for the symbol to be removed
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) February 13, 2018
UPDATE #2: Russian propaganda outlet RT.com reported the news that the American women would be able to keep the Statue of Liberty images on their helmets along with some whining about how “Russian symbols [are] still banned.” The reason, of course, that the Russian athletes are competing as “Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR)” and not allowed to display any flags or other national images on their uniforms and their national anthem will not be played is because the Russians were caught in a massive, state-run doping scandal. The OAR athletes who have been allowed to participate in this year’s Winter Games are those who were not implicated in the doping scandal and had a history of clean drug tests.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.