CCM Hockey and MassMutual will no longer use Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin in promotional campaigns following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The news was first reported by TSN’s Rick Westhead and ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski.
CCM Hockey, who signed Ovechkin to an endorsement deal in Oct. 2017, is also dropping other Russian NHL players.
“Although Mr. Ovechkin is not responsible for the Russian government’s actions, we took the decision to not use him (or any Russian player) on any global CCM communication at this point,” CCM Hockey chief executive Marrouane Nabih said in a statement to TSN.
The MassMutual featuring Ovechkin, his wife, Anastasia Shubskaya, and his Capitals teammate Nicklas Backstrom began running in October. The company said “the ad is no longer on the air” and it has also been pulled from its YouTube page.
The 36-year-old Ovechkin, who hails from Moscow, has expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, including being a part of PutinTeam, a social movement that began in 2017. As one of the country’s high-profile athletes, he has had a good relationship with Putin for a some time.
Ovechkin commented last week on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by pleading, “Please, no more war,” and added “we have to live in peace and a great world.”
When asked if he continues to support Putin, Ovechkin said that he is an athlete, not a politician.
“Well, he is my president,” Ovechkin said. “But, I am not in politics. I am an athlete, and you know, how I said, I hope everything is going to be done soon. It’s hard situation right now for both sides and everything, like how I said, everything I hope is going to be end. I’m not in control of this situation.”
Harassment of Russian players
Agent Dan Milstein, who represents a number of Russian- and Belarusian-born players like Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Ilya Sorokin, told ESPN this week that his clients have been facing an increase level of harassment.
“The discrimination and racism these Russian and Belarusian players are facing right now is remarkable,” Milstein said. “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.”
The NHL expressed concern for its players from Russia in a statement this week that also noted the league is suspending relationships with business partners from the country and putting a halt to its Russian language social media and digital websites.
“The National Hockey League condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and urges a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible,” it said.
Follow NBC News for up-to-date coverage of the Russia-Ukraine conflict
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.