Outside linebacker Chase Winovich has become the latest member of the New England Patriots to express his support for the Armenian people in the ongoing conflict between the country and Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The second-year man, who took to social media to post that “Armenia needs our help.” thus follows the footsteps of head coach Bill Belichick, who recently addressed the issue in a media conference call.
“I read [Sec. Christopher Miller’s] point about combatting threats and I couldn’t help but think and hope that we’ve seen from other countries around the world and I hope that our country will take action against Turkey and Azerbaijan for their unprovoked and deadly attacks on Armenians,” Belichick said.
“We’ve seen when humanitarian crisis and things like that, like ethnic cleaning, go unpunished, they just continue to happen. I hope that we can put a stop to that.”
While a ceasefire in the conflict was agreed upon on November 10, the situation remains a tense one going back all the way to the 1980s as the BBC explains:
Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, but its population is majority Armenian. As the Soviet Union saw increasing tensions in its constituent republics in the 1980s, Nagorno-Karabakh voted to become part of Armenia — sparking a war that stopped with a ceasefire in 1994.
Since then, Nagorno-Karabakh has remained part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by separatist ethnic Armenians backed by the Armenian government. Until recently, negotiations mediated by international powers had failed to deliver a peace agreement.
Armenia is majority Christian while Azerbaijan is majority Muslim. Turkey has close ties to Azerbaijan, while Russia is allied with Armenia — although it also has good relations with Azerbaijan.
The Patriots have one prominent Armenian voice in their ranks in the form of director of football/head coach administration, Berj Najarian. Belichick and Winovich speaking out in support of Armenia — thus leaving the football-first mentality inherent in the organization — could therefore be seen as a sign of support for Najarian.