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Russian Sports Minister Threatens Gay Athletes At Sochi Olympics

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2013

The IOC insisted last week that gay athletes and spectators at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will have nothing to fear from Russian’s “homosexuality anti-propaganda” law, which prohibits all public expressions of support for LGBT people. But Russia’s Sports Minister is sending a different message:

“The law talks not about banning a non-traditional orientation but about other things, about propaganda and implicating minors,” Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the R-Sport news agency.

“No one is banning a sportsman with a non-traditional sexual orientation from going to Sochi. But if he goes out onto the street and starts to make propaganda, then of course he will be brought to responsibility.

“As a sportsman, he should respect the law of a country,” Mutko added. “Come (to Sochi), but don’t get young people involved, don’t make propaganda. This is what we are talking about,” Mutko said.

Those found guilty of “making propaganda,” however ill-defined that term is, will be subject to fines and jail terms.

Gay speedskater Blake Skjellerup from New Zealand has announced that he will be wearing a rainbow pin while in Sochi: “If it gets me in trouble, then so be it.”



August 1st, 2013 | LINK

wow a rainbow pin. I am sure that will comfort those russian LGBT teens who are outed on youtube.

Anyone with half an atom of human compassion should shun anything and everything to do with Russia, companies that do business there, and especially the Olympics.

August 1st, 2013 | LINK

The IOC can protect athletes, officials, and spectators while they are within Olympic venues.

It cannot protect them on the streets of Sochi, in airports, in their hotels, in restaurants and bars, on the beach, etc. That is what Mr. Mutko is saying.

The streets of Sochi will not be safe for anyone supporting LGBT recognition let alone equality.

August 1st, 2013 | LINK

Man, I have to wonder, what is that dude so angry about? So many of these anti-gay people…they just look angry or have a real sour expression on their face all the time. I know a few people who are very anti-gay, Fundamentalist Christians mostly (I’m no longer religious myself) and some of them are the meanest people you ever did see. So much for the “Joy of the Lord” huh?

I think some of these people classify the fact that they ‘have to acknowledge that queers are people too’ as pro-gay propaganda. They seem to require someone to hate. I wonder why, it sure don’t say that in the Bible. LOVE thy neighbor.

That guy sure ain’t got no love.

August 1st, 2013 | LINK


He’ll be at some risk that a grandstanding pol or covertly-sponsored thug will chose to use him for a painful example of their disapproval of us all. That’s a lot more risk than I’ll be taking when I protest, boycott, and write over here (although I can’t speak for you, of course).

Gene in L.A.
August 1st, 2013 | LINK

Ben, you seem cynical about the effectiveness of wearing a rainbow pin ir one goes to Sochi. Question: how much more will a boycott of the Olympics do to “comfort those russian LGBT teens who are outed on youtube”?

The previous boycott, in 1978, of the Moscow Olympics, was non-traditional for us. The U.S. debated boycotting Hitler’s 1936 Olympics, but narrowly decided to go. In the event, Jesse Owens, a black man, took away four gold medals and was the star of the games. I for one would love to see Blake Skjellerup or some other gay athlete do the same for us next year.

Boycotts have never gotten us much. Boycotting Coors and Carls Jr. was pretty much of a bust, however rabid some of us were about doing it. Civil disobedience often works. Boycotts in general don’t have a good record, as I’m sure OMM et al could tell us, from their “successful” boycotts of Disney and Penney’s, etc.

Finally, a boycott will not hurt Russia. It will hurt the U.S. athletes who’ve trained all their lives for this opportunity. I’m abstaining from Russian products, but

Gene in L.A.
August 1st, 2013 | LINK

I’m abstaining from Russian products, but I have no illusions how much effect that will have, either.

Priya Lynn
August 1st, 2013 | LINK

Odie said ” I know a few people who are very anti-gay, Fundamentalist Christians mostly (I’m no longer religious myself) and some of them are the meanest people you ever did see.”.

I immediately thought of Linda Harvey when I read that – there’s someone that overflows with mean.

August 1st, 2013 | LINK

There is much more to a boycott than just not going or buying a product, or even the results of the boycott itself. The Coors boycott may not have been deemed entirely successful, but it did have benefits, such as the galvanizing of a community and the standing up, publicly, and saying “NO MORE!”. Boycotts are not just about getting the results you want, but getting the attention for the issue you need attention for. Just look at the conversation this proposed boycott of the Olympics, and the boycott of Russian products has produced. This goes beyond just being an American Boycott, but one that is now worldwide. Sometimes the attention is far more important than the outcome.
And sometimes just showing up and wearing a rainbow pin is just as important, especially when faced with being possibly jailed, beaten or murdered. And yes, the athlete who says they will wear pins are putting themselves in harms way for what they believe, a bit more risky than the boycott. What are you risking, Ben? A martini?

August 1st, 2013 | LINK

“No one is banning a sportsman with a non-traditional sexual orientation from going to Sochi. But if he goes out onto the street and starts to make propaganda, then of course he will be brought to responsibility.”

If this is the case, then let these games be the rainbow gayest ever, just not outside the game’s’ arena e.g.”onto the streets”. Why go onto the streets when you can be rainbow filmed within the Arena for the entire world to see? If sponsors would jump on board, that would certainly be helpful.

Anything to help those poor kids. It’s quite depressing and quite painful if I let myself go there. Gotta watch it.

August 1st, 2013 | LINK

Thanks for the link to the Blake Skjellerup article.

But please warn when a site may not be work safe. I’m not a prude, but my company may frown on some of the ads there.


Michael C
August 1st, 2013 | LINK

If Russian broadcasters air images of athletes wearing rainbow pins, will they be held responsible for the promotion of homosexuality? Will they have to blur out rainbow pins and flags?

Timothy Kincaid
August 1st, 2013 | LINK

If it’s not too late (and it probably is) I’d love to see the US and other nations incorporate a rainbow into the uniform.

August 1st, 2013 | LINK

Let’s not forget that Russia is hosting the World Cup in 2018, so we may be in for more of the same treatment 5 years from now.

In fact, 2014 will be a very interesting time for international sports as Brazil, a very gay-friendly country, gets the WC that year (and the summer games in 2016) while Russia gets the winter games. It will certainly be easy to draw distinctions between the two.

August 1st, 2013 | LINK

@Gene in L.A. The Moscow Summer Games were in 1980. There were no Olympic games, winter or summer, in 1978. Sorry to be picky.

Gene in L.A.
August 2nd, 2013 | LINK

Wow, two years off! Mea culpa. Sorry to be grouchy.

August 2nd, 2013 | LINK

Are Gay Athletes going to feel good about themselves during the games, even if they themselves are not harassed, while their Russian gay counterparts are being jailed & worse?

Huh, are they?

If THIS is not worth standing up for, then what is? What exactly would it take?

I for one cannot purchase products endorsed by this Winter’s Olympians.

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