While Russia may have laws against against homosexuality and be in favor of treating those in the LGBT community as sub-human, the United States decided to send a clear message to the country on Tuesday. President Obama announced that two openly gay athletes will be part of the delegation he’s sending to Sochi for the Winter Olympics. The President also stated that he will likely not attend the games due to his schedule.
President Obama is blaming his schedule, but it is clear that he is sending a strong message to Russia by not attending the games. He will also not be sending the First Lady or Vice President Joe Biden. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Biden led the delegation during the opening ceremony while in the 2012 Summer Olympics, the First Lady was at the head. This time around, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will do the honors. This will be the first time since 2000 that someone from the Oval Office does not attend the Olympics.
The Presidential Delegation includes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow, both openly gay. King is perhaps the most famous women’s tennis player in history and also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. She won 12 Grand Slam singles titles in her career, but was perhaps an even greater doubles player. She totaled 27 Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles spanning three decades. Cahow won a bronze medal (2006) and a silver medal (2010) playing for the US women’s hockey team in the Winter Olympics.
King will take part in the opening ceremonies while Cahow will be a member of the delegation at the close of the games. Leading the delegation in the closing ceremonies will be Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. The United States is not the only country not sending its head of state to attend the games. France and Germany have also stated that their presidents will not be attending the games.
One has to give it the President here. While there was a call by some to boycott the games due to Russia’s stance on gay rights, he did not want to take it that far and deny some athletes the only chance they’ll have to compete. Instead, the decision is that he, along with other Western leaders, will not attend the games as a sign of silent protest. However, he will make sure that his delegation will include openly gay world-class athletes and that they will take part in the opening and closing ceremonies.
The United States, and President Obama, is sending a message to Russia and Vladimir Putin. While you may feel that it is right to discriminate and punish those who happen to be in the LGBT community, we do not agree with that stance. We will send a delegation of those who we are extremely proud of to represent our nation during the Sochi Games. As the host nation of these games that are supposed to be marked by international camaraderie and brotherhood, we sincerely hope that you treat everyone with the respect they so greatly deserve.