March 03, 2022

Reps. Castro, Wagner Lead Bipartisan Call for Sporting and Cultural Sanctions Against Russia

WASHINGTON — Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02) led a bipartisan letter urging President Biden to work with allies and partners around the world to bar Russia from international sport and cultural events and organizations. The letter also calls for the United States and allied nations to investigate situations in which sports teams, cultural organizations, or related infrastructure are controlled by entities subject to U.S. sanctions.

“The world must send a powerful message that Vladimir Putin’s brutality against Ukraine has left Russia isolated on the international stage,” said Congressman Castro. “I applaud the important steps that the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, Eurovision, and other groups have taken to bar Russia from participating in their events, but the people of Ukraine deserve a coordinated response. I strongly urge the Biden administration to work with our allies to stop international sporting and cultural revenues and accolades from flowing to Russia. Putin’s criminal regime must continue to pay a high price for the invasion of Ukraine.”

“Russia’s vile and inhumane crimes against Ukraine must be unilaterally condemned and severely punished. They must be isolated from the international world across the board and part of that isolation should be the complete exclusion of the Russian Federation from international sporting events. Vladimir Putin attempts to use the prestige and economic benefits associated with international sporting and cultural events to his regime’s advantage, something for which the world will not stand, especially in light of his most recent crimes against humanity in Ukraine,” said Congresswoman Wagner.

Additional signers of the letter include Reps. Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Susan Wild (PA-07), Jim Costa (CA-16), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Dina Titus (NV-01), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Kathy Manning (NC-06), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Juan Vargas (CA-51), David Cicilline (RI-01), Greg Stanton (AZ-09), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07), André Carson (IN-07), Ami Bera (CA-07), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), and Jim McGovern (MA-02), Colin Allred (TX-32), and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07).

In recent days, organizers for Eurovision, the FIFA World Cup, the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, Formula 1’s Russian Grand Prix, and other groups have moved to bar Russian athletes from competing or canceled scheduled events in Russia. On February 24, the International Olympics Committee condemned Russia for violating the Olympic Truce and later recommended barring Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in events.

The full text of the letter can be viewed below and here.

Dear Mr. President:

As you consider further measures in conjunction with allies and partners around the world, we urge you to pursue actions to suspend Russia’s participation in international sporting federations and events as well as other international contests.

The International Olympic Committee’s “Principles of Olympism,” a model for many similar principles of international sport, notes that one of the goals of Olympism is “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” These goals are also in the spirit of the U.N. Charter—which further states in Article Two that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state[.]”

Russia’s unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine is the culmination of a pattern of aggression against its neighbors, including the agitation of separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and a war against Georgia in 2008. To allow Russia to continue to compete and participate in international sporting and cultural events as if it was still a member in good standing of the international community would send a disturbing signal that its flagrant violation of international law is normal or acceptable. Moreover, the prestige and economic benefits that flow from these events would strengthen Putin’s criminal regime at a time when wemust use all available avenues to ensure it pays a severe price for the invasion of Ukraine.

We urge you to use all possible measures under U.S. law, as well as the voice and influence of U.S. diplomacy—both directly and working through partners—to bar Russia from directly or indirectly participating in international sports and cultural organizations and events for as long as Putin’s aggression against Ukraine continues.

We should also pursue aggressive efforts to relocate any international sporting or cultural events scheduled to take place in Russia to another country. We commend the decisions by the International Olympic Committee and FIFA to bar athletes from Russia from participating in events and to relocate events out of Russia, which sets a strong precedent for similar actions. The United States and our allies should also investigate situations in which sports teams, cultural organizations, or related infrastructure are controlled by people or entities subject to U.S. sanctions.

We thank you for your consideration of this request. As Members of Congress, we stand ready to marshal the goodwill of allies around the world to make clear that such a disregard for sovereignty merits the strongest possible response from the international community.