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UPDATE: Rangers Issue STRONG Statement In Support Of Panarin BREAKING: Artemi Panarin Is Taking A Leave Of Absence After Domestic Violence Report From 2011 Comes Out Of Russia

HUGE story today. Probably the biggest in the sports world. A story coming out of Russia 10 years after the alleged incident occurred, when Panarin would've been a teenager and long before he was even a twinkle in the NHL's eye. Another interesting layer of this is the second tweet from Larry Brooks mentioning Panarin's instagram post from 1/21

That is imprisoned opposition leader and assassination attempt survivor Alex Navalny. Eddie and I did a two-part podcast on Navalny a couple weeks ago and you can get a little taste here

I don't know anything about this particular case and it's not like Panarin hasn't had a few moments in his past where he stepped in shit, but the timing of this story out of Russia is suspicious. Putin has worked to develop relationships with hockey players like Alex Ovechkin and others, but Panarin has long been an outspoken critic of Putin. Being an outspoken critic of Putin usually ends up with arrests or alleged assassinations. Putin has a well documented history of that and maybe since Panarin is so big character assassination is the only real course of action Putin has at his disposal. 

Scary stuff, but this is the risk you run with Putin. Panarin has been vocal for years. In 2019, he did a youtube interview in Russia where he had some pretty pointed quotes about Putin's Russia:

“All the major brains have already left Russia. That's not the way it should be."--Panarin

"Our mistake is that we treat him like a superman. But he is the same as we are.”--Panarin

"psychologically not so easy for Putin to soberly assess the country's issue"--Panarin

As you can see…very strong and clear language from a star athlete in arguably the world's most important city. Putin apparently hasn't taken too kindly to those words. 

OBVIOUSLY, if a girl was abused by Panarin there should be punishment for that crime. It does seem like the prevailing sentiment from the New York media and others is that this was a politically motivated hit piece against Panarin. That this is directly related to his support of Navalny and previous criticisms of Putin. This is definitely something to follow as more details come out. Hopefully the girl in question is safe and healthy. The same wishes can be extended to Panarin and his family if this is simply Putin trying to strong-arm another powerful and vocal critic. 

UPDATE: The Rangers official statement

Fucking Putin, man. The Rangers aren't buying his shit. Good on the organization for taking a strong stance which will probably lead to MSG and the Rangers organization being hacked by the Russian IRA. 

Things aren't perfect here in America, but at least you can still criticize the government freely without fear of retribution against you and your family.