In light of recent developments in Russia with the passage of various laws and anti-gay legislations that now criminalize homosexuality and gay marriage, should the United States consider an Olympic boycott?
As reported by LGBT Nation:
“Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals. So far, the world has mostly been silent. On July 3, Mr. Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form. A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay – or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay – can go to jail.”
When you consider that these laws and state-sponsored provisions will have a profound effect on enabling violence and hate crimes to be perpetrated against the vulnerable LGBT community, how can LGBT athletes from any country feel safe in competeing in Sochi, Russia in 2014? And what LGBT spectator or tourist visiting Russia for the Olympic games is going to feel welcome or safe visiting a city that would otherwise need, want, and welcome tourism and tourist dollars in their economy?
Various professional leagues here in the U.S. have made changes in their policies and league charters to be more inclusive and welcoming to gay, lesbian, and bisexual athletes. The National Hockey League, for example, has introduced this past year the “Let Them Play” campaign to combat anti-LGBT bullying in sports and combat gay discrimination within their own league. How could the NHL or any league that promotes inclusive, non-discriminatory policies and charters in good concience support or condone discriminatory behaviors while competing in a country that has made such behaviors legal or acceptable? How could the United States or the United Kingdom or any other progressive country willfully send their LGBT athletes into what would be a hostile environment?
Does the U.S. sell out the LGBT athlete community in favor of competing in Sochi anyway for TV revenue dollars, reputation, and the lure of gold for non-LGBT athletes? Is it that some values are given second class status when it comes to the Olympics? I don’t think so, but I consider the reality of the Olympics as they have become today. Now, in the Winter Olympics, or any Olympics for that matter aside from the Special Olympics, it is customary for professional athletes in the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Women’s National Basketball Association, and other professional leagues in other nations to send pro athletes to these large international competitions and tournaments. What used to be a showcase for amateur athletes who were never compensated with big salaries or pro contracts, now becomes a farce and a joke at times or an excuse to pit reputations on the line between NHL players and Kontinental Hockey League players against each other as will be the case in these winter olympics for sure. Any casual hockey fan will see the stakes and attraction of seeing the best of the NHL playing for their respective nations but mainly against a Russian national team that might as well be the KHL All-Star team.
As more athletes in the United States consider the positive changes occuring in our society, as they consider coming out and proclaiming their true selves and willingness to live openly as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, they have every right to participate in sports and compete at the highest level just as any other athlete would. Do we send a nasty message that by going attending the Sochi Olympics this coming winter, in light of Russia’s hostility towards the LGBT community-at-large, there are still some arenas where a certain class of people are not welcome? Are we still condoning segregation or still applying a second-class status on people of our own country?
There is a lot at stake financially, poltically, and ideologically when it comes to the Olympics. it’s hardly about sports anymore. Let’s not be too naive about it. Behind the sports, the Olympics is a show of nationalism, national pride, clout, and a message to the world to take notice. It’s a forum for establishing place among nations and to establish who gets bragging rights in the international pecking order. Its also a source of income for those that can profit off the tourism, merchandise, advertising, sponsorships, etc. Yet the International Olympic Commitee has to be thinking hard about what the Olympics has been and what it is now and what the spirit of the Olympics Games has come to symbolize over its long legacy. Sportsmanship, comraderie, diplomacy, a coming together of nations and peoples of different background and ethnicities, and cultures for the purposes of entertainment, sport, and celebrations… but now we are sending a message to a host nation that wishes to exclude or make feel unwelcome a population of people that this is acceptable or that we are willing to overlook their discrimination and hostility towards the LGBT community for the sake of making profit and for the sake of keeping our reputation intact as nation with the best pro athletes competing in what would have and should have been an exhibition of the best amateur athletes in the world.
The LGBT community is up in arms and should be. The rest of the world has some catching up to do it seems.
~ Source information provided by LGBT Nation, LGBT News Facebook Page, and the National Hockey League, American Hockey League, and the International Olympic Commitee.