USA Hockey ‘Support Our Troops’ Helmets Violate Olympic Spirit


U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick takes part in his team's ice hockey practice at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 15, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Shaun Best

The goalies for the U.S. Olympic hockey team have been told to remove slogans on their facemasks.

U.S. netminder Jonathan Quick will be ordered to remove the slogan ‘Support Our Troops’ from his helmet for contravening Olympic rules on political propaganda, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) said on Monday. Netminder Ryan Miller, Quick’s team mate, has also been told to remove the slogan ‘Miller Time’ from his helmet while the third American netminder Tim Thomas had already placed a sticker over a slogan on his mask during training on Monday.

“We will inform the American team and their equipment managers that this is a violation of IOC rules,” IIHF spokesman Szymon Szemberg told Reuters. “According to IOC rule 51, no political propaganda or advertisements are allowed on equipment.  “It the players don’t agree with the interpretation they can ask the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) to petition the IOC.”

While IOC rules are clear, the IIHF was not so certain whether the slogan on Quick’s helmet was political propaganda or simply offering moral support.  “If we go too hard on that we could be seen as insensitive,” said Szemberg.

Too late!   Neptunus Lex is calling them “eejits,” along with the TSA bureaucrats who tried to force a 4-year-old boy to remove his leg braces to get through security.

But, actually,the IOC is right on this one.  (Although I’d concur with Lex on the TSA boneheads.)   Yes, a tradition has arisen in recent years allowing hockey goalies to personalize their helmets.  But political and religious symbols are begging for trouble.   I’m in rare agreement, then, with Alan Colmes who observes,

If you think this is patriotic because our troops are believed to be standing up for our Constitution and way of life, including the right to free speech, then you’d also have to support signage that says the opposite of that. Would it be okay to say, “Don’t support our troops”?  How about, “Bring the troops home, now!”?

It’s better to simply declare that Olympic uniforms are expression-free zones than to open the floodgates.   Ditto the Tim Tebows of the world and their Bible verse eyeblack patches.

There’s a reason these things are called “uniforms.”   When you’re suited up, you’re representing your country, your university, or whathaveyou. If there’s going to be, say, a tribute to a departed teammate, put it on all the unies or none of them.  And leave the political and religious sloganeering for your off time.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. kth says:

    Perhaps different for individual versus team competitors. No one assumed that discus medalist Al Oerter endorsed the protest of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics, but people might get the idea that all of Team USA share the views of the ‘netminder’ (assume that’s Euro-speak for “goalie”).

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    I agree with the IOC, but for slightly different reasons. The original Olympics were supposed to be above war. So a ‘support our troops’ in an international setting is likely to have someone who does not support our troops. To put it another way, imagine a ‘support al qaeda’ slogan.
    The Miller time is harder. It is close but not exact to the slogan mark “It’s Miller time”. It is obviously tied to his name and has an obvious rational morale message. But advertising is a lot like the camel’s nose and again to support Miller leaves Ki-rin and Heinekin on the other side.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    This goes back to the original Olympics, too, in which all expressions of martial favor were forbidden. Even Greek city-states that were at war would put it aside during the Olympic games.

  4. MstrB says:

    The IOC did reverse their previous decision and allow Miller to keep “Matt Man” on his helmet as a tribute to his cousin who died due to complications from leukemia.

  5. JKB says:

    While perhaps the “Support Our Troops” slogan is inappropriate since some nations do not support the fight against the enemies of humanity currently lump under the moniker al Quaeda, the slogan is not a political statement in support of one side of a war against nation-states. That’d be like saying a slogan supporting merchant seamen was political since Somali pirates might be offended.

    Or is the IOC willing to field a Team al Quaeda should they show up?

  6. Gustopher says:

    Or is the IOC willing to field a Team al Quaeda should they show up?

    I would hope they would, since the games are about a healthy, non-milataristic competition. There would doubtless be some snags since al Quaeda is an NGO, but I would really hope they could work past them.

    And, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this: We would beat them in any sport in the Winter Olympics.

  7. DL says:

    Gee, couldn’t they just use a minuteman picture on them….????

    I guess they’re right. Can you imagine Iran with its “Kill Jews” message on their helmets?

  8. Darren Gilliland says:

    To the author James Joyner – Are you serious?? What person would want to put “Don’t support our troops” on their helmets?? This is a positive statement not a demeaning one! So you think the uniforms and the people that wear them aren’t representing this Great country, and the men and women that have risked there life for it?? You sound like a “Communist” to me and maybe you ought to defect back to your crappy country you came from. Your a total DOUCHE BAG!

  9. servingusa says:

    If the IOC’s goal is to keep politics out of the Olympics then why until this year have they made all efforts to keep Iran and Israel as separated as possible…to include the marching in of the countries during the Opening Ceremonies? Even this year when they marched in only separated by Ireland they made a big deal on how efforts by United Nations to liberate and educate the two countries are what give way to the spirit of the Olympics alive and provide progress to a time in which they could be so close and possibly compete in athletics in a sportsmanship why one day. Those “united nations” aren’t just politics, it’s troops doing the work on the ground. Not just American troops either. In addition we troops aren’t the politics or politicians. Anyone know what is on the back of Canada’s goalie helmet that is taped over???