President Barack Obama made a big statement concerning what he thinks about Russia’s treatment of gays and lesbians with who he is sending as the United States’ representatives to the Sochi Olympics.
On Tuesday the White House announced that two openly gay athletes would be a part of of U.S.’s delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Additionally, for the first time since 2000 America’s Olympic delegation won’t include a president, former president, vice president or a first lady.
Former tennis star Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow will be the openly gay representatives with the delegation. King will attend the opening ceremony, while Cahow will attend the closing ceremony.
Russia has come under intense criticism for passing national laws prohibiting “gay propaganda.” The White House did not specifically address Russia’s laws in its announcement, but did cite that the delegation represents the diversity that makes up the United States.
King, who won 39 Grand Slam titles (12 in singles competition), said she was “deeply honored” to be a part of the delegation and also had the following to say:
I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people.
The rest of the United States delegation will also boast former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (who will lead the group), U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, figure skater Brian Boitano and presidential adviser Rob Nabors.
France and Germany will also not sent their presidents to Sochi for the Games, and while they haven’t claimed it as a protest, it is known that Russia’s laws aren’t popular in either country. Earlier in the year Obama rejected the idea of boycotting the Olympics despite the U.S.’s rocky relationship with Russia.
This fall, skier Bode Miller called the Russian law “absolutely embarrassing” but the International Olympic Committee has asked athletes competing in the Games from joining protests.
IOC president Thomas Bach claims he has received assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that gays will not face discrimination in Sochi. But the law has caused some to wonder what will happen if athletes wear pins, badges or carry flags supporting gay rights.