8 American Olympians Who Stood Up against Russia’s Antigay Law
Human Rights First’s report, Convenient Targets, outlines steps the Obama Administration should take to oppose Russia’s antigay law. But some American Olympians, both current and former, aren’t leaving it to their government to speak out.
Nick Symmonds, Track Athlete
“As an American, I believe in freedom of speech and equality for all, and therefore disagree with the laws that Russia has put in place. Given that I am currently residing in London, I will say, once again, that our LGBT neighbors deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. However, as an American who is about to reside in Moscow for 12 days [for the track and field world championship], this will be the last time I will mention this subject.” (Source: The Denver Post)
Greg Louganis, Diver
“I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like for a gay athlete in Russia. It was hard enough to compete closeted representing the United States, a country that is considerably evolved on LGBT rights. It is unfathomable to consider what it’s like for the Russian athlete – knowing that if you were to come out you could lose everything you’ve worked your entire life to achieve and then on top of that to be considered a criminal. It is both heartbreaking and heinous” (Source: USA Today)
Megan Rapinoe, Soccer Player
“I hope everybody is rallying around this. I think it’s easy to focus on Russia as well as focusing on Russia we need to focus on the people it’s really affecting. I have a feeling that it’s not going to be the athletes that are the most affected by this law but the months leading up to the Russian games, and the months after the Russian games — what is the lgbt community subject to? To focus on that and I think lean in on Russia and put pressure on them to get rid of these laws which are absolutely inhumane.” (Source: MSNBC)
Bode Miller, Alpine Ski Racer
“I think it is absolutely embarrassing there are countries and people who are that intolerant or that ignorant. It’s not the first time. We have been dealing with human rights issues since there were humans. My main emotion when I hear and deal with situations like that is embarrassment. As a human being, I think it is embarrassing… There are politics in sport and athletics. They always are intertwined, even though people try to keep them separate. Asking an athlete to go somewhere and compete and be a representative of that philosophy and all the different crap that kind of goes along with it and then telling them they can’t tell them they express their views or they can’t say what they believe is pretty hypocritical and unfair.” (Source: Chicago Tribune)
Ashley Wagner, Figure Skater
“I firmly believe that your preferences don’t make you any less of a being. It’s not what defines you. It’s inconvenient to talk about. But it’s something I feel so strongly about.” (Source: Huffington Post)
Johnny Weir, Figure Skater
“In Russia, it’s very difficult to go against the government and to do something against the rules. People in the United States right now is focused on attacking Russia and they are loosing the point of attacking this [antigay] law. For me as an athlete—as someone who’s trained, lived, performed, and loved Russia for so long—it’s heartbreaking that my community is being suppressed in a country that I love so much. That I can be suppressed in a country that I love so much.” (Source: MSNBC)
Martina Navratilova, Tennis Player
“It is kind of frightening that people could agree that much on [Rusia’s antigay law] that. It just goes to show how totalitarian that country is because you can have a vote on that. I feel like Putin’s just trying to go against whatever the West is doing. If the West would be bad about gays, he would have gay marriage, but because the West is good with the gays — or getting better, he goes the other way. I couldn’t believe the masses of people who were out protesting against something that doesn’t affect them in any way. To really see real people that are so emotionally invested in denying you equality is really disconcerting.” (Source: The Advocate)
Seth Wescott, Snowboarder
“The human rights stuff that’s going on, there’s a potential for it to be an incredibly negatively-overshadowed Olympics. They’re [LGBT persons] wonderful human beings, and I think for them to be discriminated against is a crime.” (Source: ESPN)
Human Rights First’s Report
Read Human Rights First’s report, Convenient Targets: The Anti-“Propaganda” Law and the Threat to LGBT Rights in Russia.
The report notes that the Russian assault on LGBT rights is part of a broader crackdown on dissent that has its roots in the massive anti-government protests in 2011. Since then, President Putin has used repressive laws and law enforcement to try to weaken civil society, including government critics, human rights activists, independent journalists, whistle blowers, and now LGBT persons. The report also examines: violent hate crime against LGBT Russians; local laws banning homosexual propaganda, which were the precursors to the federal law; the evolution of the federal ban; prominent court rulings regarding LGBT rights; and the anti-propaganda law and the Sochi Olympics.