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The NHL on Monday suspended its agreement with the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in the latest move for sports organizations to distance themselves from the Kremlin amid the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The NHL told its teams to cease contact with KHL counterparts and Russia-based agents as part of the suspension of the memorandum between the professional hockey leagues, according to the Associated Press. Teams can continue to communicate with North American agents certified by the NHL Players’ Association but may have a higher degree of difficulty in completing agreements.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the league’s decision to the AP. The Daily Faceoff first reported the NHL’s decision to cut ties with the KHL.
The NHL said last week it was suspending relationships with business partners in Russia and pausing Russian-language social and digital media sites, including terminating the NHL’s Russian broadcast agreement.
“The National Hockey League condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and urges a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible,” the league said last month. “Effective immediately, we are suspending our relationships with our business partners in Russia and we are pausing our Russian language social and digital media sites. In addition, we are discontinuing any consideration of Russia as a location for any future competitions involving the NHL.
“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.”
NHL players from Russia and Belarus are facing an immense amount of harassment since the attacks on Ukraine began last week, and several of them have even received death threats, according to one agent who is asking people to “stop looking at them as aggressors.”
Dan Milstein, a Ukrainian-born agent who represents the majority of those athletes being targeted in the league, told ESPN this week his clients have become concerned for their safety as they face increasing harassment.
“The discrimination and racism these Russian and Belarusian players are facing right now is remarkable,” Milstein told the outlet. “We’re being set back 30 years. I have players calling me, parents calling me. They’re concerned whether they’ll be able to play, whether they’ll be safe.”
He told the outlet some of his clients have received death threats, adding that he was recently targeted by someone on the street who called him a “Nazi” and was urged to “get back to your country.”
There are more than three dozen Russia-born players in the NHL. The KHL is in the midst of its playoffs.
Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj and the Associated Press contributed to this report.