Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg Clarifies Stance on UFC Boycott for Allowing Russian Fighters to Compete
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, we've seen a variety of forms of protest against Russia in all walks of life. One of the latest comes from Amon Amarth vocalist Johan Hegg, who has pledged that he will not partake in watching upcoming UFC fights after they have allowed Russian fighters to continue competing in events.
"As long as @ufc allows Russian fighters to compete and make money, while children die in Ukraine, @ufc will not get my money," stated Hegg in a tweet. "I have now cancelled my fight pass. Athletes represent their country and regime. Allowing Russian fighters to compete is to support Putin."
The message comes in advance of a March 19 bout in the U.K. where British fighter Tom Aspinall will do battle with Russian heavyweight contender Alexander Volkov in the top billed fight.
Musicians have taken actions in a variety of ways. Slipknot, Bring Me the Horizon, Iron Maiden, Green Day and My Chemical Romance are among the acts that have either canceled or postponed upcoming touring in Russia and Ukraine due to the unstable situation between the two countries, each citing their solidarity with the people of Ukraine while some also acknowledged their Russian and Belarusian fans who also stand for peace while their country continues its invasion.
Just this week, Universal Music Group announced (per Variety) that it has suspended all operations in Russia as a response to the ongoing invasion. asking for "an end to violence in Ukraine as soon as possible."
And shortly after the invasion took place, officials for the Eurovision Song Contest announced that Russia would not be allowed to compete in the 2022 competition taking place between May 10-14 in Turin, Italy.
And music is not the only place where competitors from Russia and Ukraine are affected. The NBA has two players of Ukrainian heritage. Svi Mykhailiuk and Alex Len issued a joint statement condemning the invasion of their homeland, stating, “Ukraine is a peaceful, sovereign state inhabited by people who want to decide their own destiny. We pray for our families, friends, relatives and all people who are in the territory of Ukraine. We hope for an end to this terrible war as soon as possible. Dear fellow Ukrainians, hold on! Our strength is unity! We are with you!”
The other major sport featuring athletes from either country is the NHL, which actually counts a significant number of Russian-born players currently competing in the league. The NHL issued a statement also condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, urging a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible. They also suspended their relationships with business partners in Russia and paused their Russian language social and digital media sites. Plus, they discontinued consideration of Russia as a location for any future NHL competitions.
That said, they've also expressed their support for the Russian players in their league. "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. We understand they and their families are being placed in an extremely difficult position," stated the league.
Speaking of that difficult position, one of the most prominent stars in the NHL is the Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had previously campaigned for Putin. When asked for his thoughts on the invasion, he initially stated on Feb. 25, a day after the invasion started, "Please, no more war. It doesn't matter who is in the war -- Russia, Ukraine, different countries -- we have to live in peace."
When asked if he supported Russia in the invasion, he responded, "I'm Russian, right? It's not something I can control. It's not in my hands. I hope it's going to end soon and there's going to be peace in both countries. I don't control this one."
The hockey star later commented that the invasion had been "a hard situation" for him, adding, "I have lots of friends in Russia and Ukraine, and it's hard to see the war. I hope soon it's going to be over and there's going to be peace in the whole world."
While many have found ways to protest, there are also others who have thrown their energies into aiding Ukraine while the invasion continues. See some of the acts who are helping through financial and humanitarian efforts here.
UPDATE: Hegg further clarified his thoughts on the matter in a series of tweets.
"I feel I have to clarify my point of view. I love watching @ufc, and I have nothing but respect for the skill and dedication of the athletes competing in the octagon," stated Hegg. "What is happening right now in Ukraine is a tragedy. It’s the biggest war we’ve seen in Europe since WWII. Two weeks ago Putin made an unprovoked attack on Ukraine. A democratic, sovereign nation. In doing so he caused the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in modern history."
He continued, "1.5 million people has fled the war so far. Putin’s armies are committing war crimes such as shelling residential areas, hospitals and even firing on civilians trying to flee. So far over 30 children have been killed in this war. More than 70 wounded. Putin has repeatedly broken cease fire agreements, basically luring people out of their shelters only to hit them with artillery."
The singer then added, "Am I angry and frustrated? Yes. This war doesn’t only threaten and affect Ukraine. Putin has threatened to invade Finland and Sweden. He threatens the whole of Europe. Ukraine will not be able to export wheat and other crops during the invasion, which will have consequences for Middle Eastern and African nations that depend heavily on the Black Sea region for food. World Food Programme (WFP) executive director David Beasley has warned that the 'world cannot afford to let another conflict drive the numbers of hungry people even higher.'"
"Putin has threatened the world, including the U.S. with Nuclear weapons," he continued. "Is it fair to target Russian fighters/athletes with sanctions? I think it is. It’s not that I want to hurt them personally, but there is no middle ground here. Athletes have influence. If they don’t want to speak up against this war, then why should they escape sanctions when people actually protesting the war in Russia, at the risk of being imprisoned or worse, do not? You don’t have to agree with me, I don’t expect everyone to do so, but in my opinion the world has to put enough pressure on Putin and his regime that he will end this war."