The law, which parliament passed in June, bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and imposes fines on those holding gay pride rallies. It has attracted international condemnation and cast a shadow over the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, with questions raised over whether it will apply to athletes and spectators at next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi.
The International Olympic Committee is seeking clarification from Russia and there have already been some calls for a boycott of the Games.
Mutko said before the start of the track and field championships that critics should “calm down”, saying the rights of all athletes competing in Sochi will be respected. On Sunday he blamed continuing debate on “an invented problem” in Western media. “We don’t have a law to ban non-traditional sexual relations,” he said. “The mass media in the West have focused much more on this law more than they do in Russia.”
More recently, Sky News (mis)characterized a congratulatory kiss between Russian athletes Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova as a “protest kiss”. The claim was made without any evidence of the athletes making a political statement. It is quite common to see Russian athletes give each other a customary kiss as a form of greeting/congratulations/celebration; and it is quite common to see between two athletes of the same gender.
Meanwhile, there have been athletes who have made public their political feelings.
In Moscow last week, Swedish high-jumper Emma Green-Tregaro painted her fingernails in rainbow colors. She, a non-Russian, achieves praise. When Russian pole-vaulting hero Yelena Isibayeva reacts and criticizes an outsider for “disrespecting” the laws of her country, Isibayeva earns ire and condemnation for expressing her opinion. Some now are calling for her to be stripped of her Olympic ambassadorial role. The backlash caused her to try and clarify (or backtrack) her opinion and position.
Another non-Russian athlete criticized the Russian legislation as well, last Friday:
(CNN) — U.S. runner Nick Symmonds took a swipe at Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law after winning a silver medal in the 800-meter competition at the World Track & Field Championships in Moscow, according to state-run media.
Symmonds became the first athlete to openly criticize the law on Russian soil Tuesday when, after registering a time of one minute, 43.55 seconds, he dedicated his second-place finish to all his gay friends back home, RIA Novosti reported.
“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” he told the news outlet at Luzhniki Stadium. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”
Symmonds, 29, who appeared in a February ad for the gender-equality group, NOH8, went on record with his sentiments earlier this month in a blog post for Runner’s World magazine.
In it, he flatly stated his support for LGBT rights — and his disagreement with the Russian law — but promised not to raise the subject in Russia because “the playing field is not a place for politics.”
“I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation. Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend’s house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people,” he wrote.
It sounds like the exact sentiment Isibayeva was expressing. Yet Symmonds appears to have reneged. Any public outcry against him (aside from my tepid response)?
2 years ago, a man of good character, ’1984 Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Peter Vidmar resigned as USOC’s chief of mission for the U.S. Olympic team amidst pressure and protest by those who could not tolerate his personal belief against same-sex marriage, and his support of California’s Prop 8:
I’ve been to USOC events where Vidmar was the guest speaker. He was an immediate role model and an incredibly inspirational speaker. When I heard he had been chosen by the USOC, along with past Women’s Sports Foundation president and Paralympian Aimee Mullins, it seemed like a natural fit. But then I too read about his active support (including a $2,000 personal donation) of California’s Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. Immediately, I thought of all the gay Olympic athletes he would be representing next summer.
If I were competing in next year’s Olympics, I would want the appointments made by the USOC to represent all of the USA. The Olympic Games are known for setting the standard on inclusiveness in sport. Once Vidmar went public with his stance against gay marriage, he excluded specific Olympic athletes from feeling that they belonged. This may not have been his intention. But would it have been OK for him to speak out against rights for those of a different race, gender or religion? Discrimination based on sexuality should be seen as just as detrimental. With Vidmar’s resignation, I know we are finally moving in the right direction.
Whatever Vidmar’s personal beliefs, I strongly feel he would have represented all athletes fairly and equally, as it related to his role as a USOC official and its purpose- which had nothing to do with the issue of traditional vs. same-sex marriage.
Was it an “act of courage”? To some degree, sure. But just look at the reaction he’s received (which in my opinion, is not shocking at the least): Overwhelming support.
You know what would take a set of raisins the size of grapefruits? For any of those WWE wrestling superstars to say anything at all that even remotely hints at an “anti-gay” sentiment or a non-support of same-sex marriage.
In the world we live in today, I think it takes just as much courage for those who are against gay marriage to express their opinions without the fear of being labeled “homophobe”, “hateful”, “bigoted” as it does for “coming out” as gay.
Are there any athletes who have recently come out of the closet to openly express their disapproval of same-sex relations or marriage? If so, what was the fallout? And should that opinion be judged as “hateful” and “bigoted”? Are there cases where those on both sides of the issue can debate it, without expressing hate and disrespect?
So much of the intolerance of opinion that I am seeing these days, seems to come from those on the side of the aisle who perceive being against same-sex marriage (which should not always equate to the same thing as being “anti-gay”) as a perspective which must come from a hateful and bigoted place. In some cases, it might be. Yet there are also good people (like Vidmar) who hold an opinion that pro-gay advocates should be able to disagree with, without becoming close-minded and hateful themselves.
It seems like only one side is tolerated into having a political voice expressed; or a personal belief shared.
We all have our personal beliefs. They might be right ones or wrong ones; but we should be able to have respectful debates and differences of opinions.
I think people should be able to debate the issue and disagree with a man of character like Vidmar without demonizing him. Without turning into intolerant, hate-filled bigots themselves.
Today in 2013, the traditional roles appear reversed: The ones now in the closet are those who fear speaking out against homosexuality in any way; or fear saying anything that might be (mis)construed as criticism of gay rights, or non-supportive of “gay rights”.
At least out here in Los Angeles, conservatives are far more “in the closet” than liberals on the issues. I’ve seen plenty of vehicles sport “No on Prop 8″ bumper stickers; yet not a single “yes” bumper sticker. Yet when it was put on the ballot for California voters to decide upon the issue, Prop 8 passed.
As for my personal opinion on homosexuality and gay marriage?