US Senator blasts “outrageous” Russian threat against gay Olympic athletes

United States Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called “outrageous” the news that Russia plans to arrest gay, and gay-friendly, Olympic athletes and visitors during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Merkley was responding to an earlier report in the Russian state-owned media that the country’s Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, had said that Olympic athletes and guests who act in a pro-gay manner during the games will be arrested under Russia’s new draconian anti-gay “propaganda” law.

Jeff-Merkley-russia-olympics-gay

In his tweet, which forwarded a copy of an earlier Buzzfeed story about the Russian Minister’s threat, Senator Merkley wrote:

“Outrageous. Olympic discrimination against LGBT athletes and spectators is 100% unacceptable.”

Merkley’s comments add fuel to an already volatile situation in which, by the hour, the safety of Olympic athletes and spectators is being increasingly questioned by human rights groups, politicians, and members of the Russian government itself.  Russia has become increasingly dangerous for gay and trans people following the government ramping up its official pogrom against the minority.

Earlier today, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest gay rights group, said that the Russians have now made clear that gay athletes will be in “harm’s way” if they attend the Olympic games in Sochi.

“The opinion of the Russian government is now perfectly clear: if you’re gay and you come to Russia for the Olympics, you will be in harm’s way.”

Under Russia’s draconian new anti-gay law, you can be arrested for something as simple as pro-gay speech, or even wearing an article a clothing that suggests you have pro-gay sympathies.  Last year in Russia, someone was arrested under a similar regional law for wearing rainbow suspenders.

Blake-Skjellerup

New Zealand Olympic speedskater Blake Skjellerup says he will wear a rainbow pin while competing in the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi. Russia’s Sports Minister has promised to arrest him.

Of particular concern now is the safety of New Zealand Olympic speedskater Blake Skjellerup, who indicated that he would wear a rainbow pin while competing in the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi.  According to the Russian Sports Minister today, Skjellerup, who is openly gay, will be arrested on arriving in Sochi.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Isaac LaRock

    IOC should _not_ refund the 100 million dollar fee to Russia. Russia should be accused of violating the intention of the Olympics, by banning participants and spectators from attending. Also Russia should be accused of harming the image of the Olympics as an event that is inclusive and improves international relations. At least keeping it going in court until the Olympics are over, make Russia prove it’s not violating human rights of participants. A country which has held winter Olympics in the past and still has adequate facilities should be awarded the right to host. This way new facilities will not need be built and the host country will get a major economic benefit.

  • FLL

    There might be something to your theory. Russian authorities, and construction companies at Sochi, are also involved in widespread abuses of the workers who are putting the venues together at Sochi. Read this astonishing article about a construction work who was involved in a simple pay dispute with an employer who was trying to cheat him of his pay. This is one of the construction companies currently doing work in Sochi. The company is apparently in cahoots with the local police who beat the man and sodomized him with a fireman’s crowbar. Here is the link:

    http://www.vocativ.com/07-2013/russian-cops-sodomize-olympic-construction-worker-in-dispute-over-600-in-back-pay/

    Putting it kindly, I don’t think Russia has the logistics in place to host the Winter Olympics.

  • Doug Watkins

    I am going to throw out an alternative theory on Putin’s madness. I have heard this once, but never repeated. The Sochi games are going to be a disaster. Not because of this law, but due to incompetence, corruption, etc none of the venues are ready or are in terrible shape. Putin knew the West would get its knickers in a knot and boycott and not come or move the games.Although they would lose money, they would save face. It has the added benefit of bashing queers and having an “enemy” to rally against to solidify this power

  • FLL

    Very nice descriptive phrase: “the fucktard trifecta.” Some writers on other sites have said that it would be financially impossible to move the Games. The host country pays a fee of over $100 million to the IOC, so the IOC would have to refund the fee and then ask another country, like Canada, to come up with the fee. That might be doable, but I think that a lot of money has already changed hands in the form of contracts between Russia and foreign companies. The Olympics were actually cancelled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to the two world wars. Cancelling the Sochi Olympics seems like a difficult nut to crack this close to the date. The last resort might be mass protest. “Non-law-abiding” people might wear a rainbow pin. “Law-abiding” people might have to settle for wearing the rainbow NBC logo, maybe with an equality message underneath.

  • David McCreary

    The IOC should move the games to another nation. That will never happen for a lot of reasons. Next best solution is for thousands of athletes to wear rainbow pins or armbands. That would have the wonderful effect of pissing off the Russian thugs, the Islamic fundamentalists, AND the the American fundie homophobes all at the same time. The fucktard trifecta. Only downside is that Goldman Sachs would find a way to manipulate popcorn commodities markets.

  • FLL

    More nonsense out of Russia. A young man was picketing against the anti-”gay propaganda” bill in St. Petersburg’s Palace Square. Today is Russian Airborne Troops day, and Airborne service members assaulted the young man before police intervened. When police did intervene, the Airborne paratroopers attacked the police and then (of course) members of the press who were reporting on the incident. According to the news report, “They start putting the drunken pilots into detention buses for attacking cops and more fights break out between the soldiers and the police.” Finally outmaneuvered, the drunken leader of the Airborne service members let loose with this priceless rant concerning Putin’s sexuality, including an unintentional double entendre regarding “the entire country”:

    “This is evil. Putin is [a] fag and the rest of it is all shit. The entire country is on its knees. We are Russians!”

    In today’s Russia, truth is stranger than fiction. Here is the link to the article and video:

    http://animalnewyork.com/2013/drunk-russian-soldiers-attack-lonely-lgbt-rights-protestor-fight-with-police/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+animalnewyork+%28ANIMAL%29

  • Ninong

    Is there any other kind of Broadway musical?

  • Tor

    Perhaps, but it would indeed create an international outcry.

  • FLL

    The story about the king of Denmark may very well be legend rather than factual, although the king did use his influence to facilitate the escape of Danish Jews to Sweden. My instinct is that, although the story may be legend, it does amount to a shrewd tactic. If authorities at Sochi were on the lookout for gay athletes or visitors, at least inside the Olympic village, their job would be almost impossible if both gay visitors and their straight allies were to were a rainbow pin in large numbers. This is especially true if a high-level official at the Games, such as Joe Biden, joined them in wearing a rainbow pin.

  • David McCreary

    That story is historical legend… not fact. I first learned of this fiction in Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch-22 and subsequent research confirmed. The yellow star was not used by the Germans in Denmark. See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1990/mar/29/the-legend-of-king-christian-an-exchange/?pagination=false. Not to belittle at all the heroic and nobel efforts of the Danish people, but no one was wearing a yellow star in Denmark. Including the King.

  • Tom Chicago

    When all the IOC bloviating is deflated, and even more arrests are made, It will become clear that we’ve been demonized once again by one of the worst regimes on the planet, and once again religious fundamentalists have moved the effort forward. Harvey called Putin, Rats Putin, and it should be a name that sticks to him. If, by some mysterious process of Russian legality, the Olympic participants are somehow shielded, it will only serve to bring into greater relief this odious, barbaric law and the brutal effects on gay people and their allies there.

  • semoto

    Questions:
    Can the Olympics be cancelled by the Olympic committee based on a threat to the athletes?
    Also, what if all the nations with gay athletes simply didn’t attend?

  • lynchie

    Keep in mind you have none of the legal options we enjoy here in the U.S. No right to an attorney, no rights at all in fact. So going to the Olympics puts money in the Russian coffers. As far a being in groups, that means the police can simply arrest more at one time. Also keep in mind that there would be no tv coverage. NBC are hardly going to send crews on the streets and risk being cut off from the games. This protest has to be carried by our government. Maybe Boehner can have a vote between smoking, drinking and voting down Obamacare.

  • lynchie

    His O’ness is silent. I guess he is still evolving. The athletes are dependent on money from the U.S. Olympic committee and the IOC can play hardball. It will all be about the money, for Russia, for the IOC, for NBC, for the companies making crap for sale etc., etc. I say boycott is the only way.

  • FLL

    During WWII, the king of Denmark war the yellow Star of David on his sleeve. Many Danish gentiles followed suit, which made it more difficult for the Nazi occupiers to identify Jews. In the unfortunate event that the Sochi Games go on, both gay people and allies should wear rainbow pins in Sochi.

  • FLL

    Yes, as good of a president as FDR was, he said did not publicly condemn Nazi treatment of Jews. I hope history doesn’t repeat itself.

  • FLL

    Irving Berlin? That is gay-leaning Broadway musical.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Let’s hope not, not again…………

  • Badgerite

    What kind of Olympic Games has invited athletes under threat of arrest on arrival in the host country?
    This is just bizarre.

  • Rambie

    Yeah, it’s 1936 all over again.

  • 1jetpackangel

    So this would be a good time to go ahead and design those rainbow “FAG ENABLER” t-shirts I was thinking about (if somebody else doesn’t beat me to it because I’m lazy), because I wanted something appropriate to wear if I ever met a member of Westboro Baptist. They could double as Sochi Olympics merchandise! Proceeds will benefit HRC!

  • Ninong

    Kirill is just more stringent in his way of saying the same things as Francis and Benedict XVI. Francis didn’t say anything new on the plane in spite of how the media tried to spin it. It was the same old bulls***.

    Gays still have a “tendency” to do “acts that are intrinsically disordered” and sinful. However, if they choose to live a life of celibacy (like Benny and Bel Giorgio claim to do) and strive for the Lord, “who am I to judge.” Nothing different. All three of them say the same things about gay marriage: it will destroy mankind as we know it. Kirill just adds that it’s a sign of the end times.

  • Jimmy

    A shame more politicians won’t stand up and say this, especially President Obama. This should be a no-brainer for him. Protecting the lives and safety of American citizens is kind of his job. As for the athletes, I have no doubt they will be pressured to play along. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and if any of them stand up for what’s right.

  • nicho

    So Kirill and Pope Francis are on the same page.

  • nicho

    I have been saying the same thing. I’m guessing that when Pooty Poot has his cabinet meetings, the sales of Stoli aren’t even on the agenda. How many gays are there in the US? How many of them drink vodka? How many of those drink Stoli? How many of those will boycott? I imagine the effects of the boycott on Stoli sales will be unnoticeable. If you want to boycott, fine, but pick a target where it will have some effect. I agree with Karmanot. Going after a major IOC sponsor like Coke would have more effect.

  • nicho

    They don’t have to. They just select a few, beat the living crap out of them, and those little flags would disappear.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Comment of the day!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    :-)

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    I don’t think the boycott has done anything. I think the Russians saying that gay and gay friendly athletes are in danger has taken this to a new level.

  • kmcdevitt

    Most boycotts are ineffective; this one, however, seems to have sparked conversation and called further critical attention to the situation. That’s way more successful than most boycotts ever are.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Bravo Sen. Merkley!

  • Thom Allen
  • Lee Merrick

    The AOC needs to put it’s foot down with Russia: Respect athletes and tourists, or lose the Olympics. The Russian economy will face the consequence of their bigotry.

  • Ninong

    That was an anti-Putin flash mob.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It is catching! It doesn’t get any gayer than this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oacelnX3VSQ

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    I came around on that too, by thinking in another direction: Bad PR for major sponsors like COKE, who have an international presence to defend.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Z Russian Sports Minister spreads pogrom to Olympic Athletes, visitors and attendants, technicians, coaches and others. AND, the AOC remians silent. The President of America remains silent, NBC remains silent. Remember the old slogan: “Silence = Death”?

  • Drew2u

    I thought I saw that TMZ ran something about gay olympians or gay olympics, but I can’t find it. If that were the case, that’s a sizable new audience (as I doubt the viewers of TMZ are politically aware enough to pick up on Putin’s pogrom).

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    If anyone is interested in another opinion about the Vodka boycott (I think it’s dumb), check this out from The Naked Sword: http://t.co/qnPEGDfUQ6

  • Hue-Man

    A dailyxtra link from 2010 in the above link (if you didn’t get that far. Worth a read about homophobia and the closet in sport, too.): “Skjellerup visited Whistler’s Pride House during the Olympics and says
    the gay space for athletes and fans partially inspired him to go public with his sexuality.

    “It opened my eyes to how it is for a lot of athletes to come out,” says the 24-year-old, who qualified for the quarterfinals in the 10,000-metre short track speed skate.” http://dailyxtra.com/vancouver/news/olympian-comes?market=207&qt-event_listings=0

    Olympic Pride House = gay propaganda

  • Jim Olson

    Likely, yes.

  • http://about.me/jameswneal Jim Neal

    I can’t say I’m shocked…but I am. F*cking# Putin is a thug and always has been. Sadly there’s widespread belief in Russia that gays are pedophiles and all that crap. I’ll be damned if I spend a nickel on anything Russian…

  • S1AMER

    Good for him! We need a lot more important people making a lot more noise.

    I don’t think we should boycott the Sochi Olympics (the last time we boycotted an Olympics didn’t go all that well in making our point to the world). But tourists and athletes should engage in group “homosexual propaganda” (tee-shirts, public statements, etc.) just to egg the Putin government into embarrassing itself in front of cameras. (But if you go to the Olympics, be careful to stay in groups and try to avoid arrest — a Russian prison is best avoided!)

    Putin wants to put on a good show. The last thing he wants is bad press and international attention to regressive clerical-support-courting laws.

    Meanwhile, our government is already pissed about Snowden, and Obama and/or Kerry might be more likely to make a statement against Putin if we pressed hard on both the White House and the State Department.

  • Letao

    Imagine if they wore pink triangles and got arrested.

  • Ninong

    What if some athletes pulled out little rainbow flags as they were parading around the stadium during the opening ceremony? What if their entire team did it to show solidarity? Would they arrest the entire team?

  • Ninong

    Russia wants all of their foreign guests to pretend DADT applies to them while they’re in Russia. He has promised that the new law will be fully enforced with no exceptions. I wonder if he cleared that comment with Putin?

    That’s exactly the same as the statements made by Russian Patriarch Kirill, who said gay marriage and feminism will destroy humanity but he has no problem with gays as long as they keep quiet about it and don’t spread it to the children. Apparently he thinks it’s catching.

  • Tor

    Imagine…..What if everybody wore a rainbow pin?

  • ComradeRutherford

    Damned Democrats, always on the right side of history…

  • sane37

    boycott

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