Brian Burke is an individual who is willing to speak his mind, and when it comes to the issue of gay rights at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it doesn't appear as though USA Hockey's director of player development will stay silent.
Burke, the former Maple Leafs general manager, told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record that he believes Russia's anti-gay legislation is "repugnant" and will be willing to say so publicly during his time in Sochi, via Gulitti's twitter:
Brian Burke told me today Russia's anti-gay propaganda law is "repugnant" and he won't be afraid to say that when he's in Sochi for Olympics— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) August 27, 2013
But Burke said, "when we (Team USA) get off the plane, the players are going to be instructed this is not a political mission. ..."— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) August 27, 2013
Burke cont: "...We’re here to win hockey games. Don’t worry about the politics. People like me will still speak about it."— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) August 27, 2013
Brian Burke cont: "..But once we get off the planes, we’re focused on the tournament."— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) August 27, 2013
Pressure has been mounting for the United States to take some kind of stand against the repressive laws, and the topic has permeated into this week's Olympic camps in both the U.S. and Canada. While Russian players like Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk have come out in support (or in the case of Datsyuk, apparent support) of the anti-gay laws, American and Canadian players have spoken out against them when asked.
Many players seem comfortable talking about it at this stage, but they won't want it to become a distraction at the actual Games, and Burke is the perfect person to take the spotlight off the players.
Burke's son Patrick, who works in the NHL's department of player safety, founded the You Can Play Project -- an organization advocating equal rights in sports regardless of sexual orientation -- and the elder Burke serves on the group's advisory board. He never shies away from this issue.
Burke believes a boycott of the Sochi Games would be unfair to the players, but thinks that Russia should not be allowed to hold another international competition until the laws are repealed. The anti-gay legislation was enacted after Sochi was awarded the 2014 Olympics.