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Obama to skip Olympic games, selects gay athletes for Sochi delegation

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama sent Russia a clear message about its treatment of gays and lesbians with who he is – and isn’t – sending to represent the United States at the Sochi Olympics.

Billie Jean King will be one of two openly gay athletes in the U.S. delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies, Obama announced Tuesday. For the first time since 2000, however, the U.S. will not send a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Games.

Jason DeCrow, APBillie Jean King

Jason DeCrow, AP
Billie Jean King

Caitlin Cahow

Caitlin Cahow

Russia has come under fierce criticism for passing national laws banning “gay propaganda.” Though the White House did not specifically address the Russian laws in making its announcement, spokesman Shin Inouye said the delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States” and that Obama “knows they will showcase to the world the best of America – diversity, determination and teamwork.”

The White House said Obama’s schedule will not permit him to attend the Games.

“It’s a positive sign to see openly gay representatives in the delegation,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, which recently sent a letter urging Obama to include gays and lesbians in the delegation. “Hopefully it sends a message to the Russian people and the rest of the world that the United States values the civil and human rights of LGBT people.”

King said she was “deeply honored” to be named to the delegation.

“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,” said King, who will attend the opening ceremony.

Hockey player Caitlin Cahow is the other openly gay representative to the delegation. She’ll attend the closing ceremony.

The U.S. Olympic Committee made no comment about the sexual orientation of the delegation. In a nod to its disapproval of the law, however, the USOC recently revised its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.

France and Germany are among the other countries who will not send their presidents to Sochi for the Games.

Earlier this year, Obama rejected the idea of a U.S. boycott of the Olympics despite a number of differences with Russia, including the anti-gay law.

This move, however, sends a strong signal: In 2010, Vice President Joe Biden led the delegation, and in 2012, first lady Michelle Obama held the honor.

This year’s group is led by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Others in the delegation include U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, figure skater Brian Boitano and presidential adviser Rob Nabors.

King, the iconic tennis player, might be the most recognizable face in the group.

She’s a 39-time Grand Slam title winner (singles, doubles and mixed), a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and on e of the most prominent advocates of equality for women in sports and society over the past several decades.

She’ll attend the Olympics in a country that is creating tension for several key players because of the laws, including the International Olympic Committee, which awarded the Games to Russia.

Earlier this month, IOC President Thomas Bach said Russia would set up public protest zones in Sochi for “people who want to express their opinion or want to demonstrate for or against something.”

Meanwhile, the IOC approved a letter going out to athletes reminding them to refrain from protests or political gestures during the Sochi Games – reiterating Rule 50 of the Olympic charter, which forbids demonstrations on Olympic grounds.

Bach had previously said he’d received assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that gays will not be discriminated against in Sochi. But the Russian law has raised questions about what could happen to athletes who wear pins or badges or carry flags supporting gay rights.

Earlier this fall, skier Bode Miller was one of the few American athletes to speak out against the Russian law, calling it “absolutely embarrassing.”

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150 more reader comments:

  1. tah hee hee hee… good one ;)

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:54pm
  2. In your face, Russia.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:55pm
  3. Billy Jean has always stood tall . Send her in, coach

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:55pm
  4. Billie Jean King <3

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:55pm
  5. Amazing. I love it!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:55pm
  6. #Diplomacy

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:56pm
  7. As long as they will be safe.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:56pm
  8. If anything became of these treasured American athletes the country would freak the fuck out.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:05am
  9. Please let them be safe!!!!!!!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:12am
  10. I have a feeling them not being safe could be considered an act of war.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:14am
  11. as it should be

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:59am
  12. YES! Suck it, Russia

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:57pm
  13. Awesome

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:19am
  14. Wonderful. I wish them all safety and success! I hope the Secret Service or Special Forces will be protecting them during their Victories.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:43am
  15. AND the republican party C:

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:14pm
  16. Nice! And I hope millions of gay people from around the world show up and be visible!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:57pm
  17. Good

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:59pm
  18. Lmfao

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:59pm
  19. Way to go Prez

    Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 11:59pm
  20. Way to go Mr. President

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:00am
  21. I love Obama

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:00am
  22. billyjean will eat those assholes alive. go!! billie!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:01am
  23. Yesssss!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:01am
  24. Obama Obama Obama!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:02am
  25. If they wore a pink triangle it’d really make a statement, that Russia is holding the same values as the Nazis.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:02am
  26. Another GREAT move by our GREAT President! Thank you, President Obama!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:02am
  27. Cheers to our President!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:03am
  28. :)

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:03am
  29. Love that!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:04am
  30. Nice to see!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:05am
  31. I will be afraid for their safety!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:06am
  32. Michael Barrach are you kidding me? This was a great move…but Obama suuuuucks as president. I voted for his garbage campaign promises

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:07am
  33. taking a stand to the russia delgation!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:07am
  34. Ha! In your face Putin!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:08am
  35. Cool!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:09am
  36. And will the Marines (both str8 and GLBT) be walking beside them 24/7 to protect them? They’d better.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:10am
  37. Don’t go Billie!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:10am
  38. Obama & Biden not going but lets send in the gays to get arrested or killed. What’s wrong with this? No one from the US should go.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:11am
  39. the athletes want to go, even the lgbt ones

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:44am
  40. A-Stitch....THE athletes WANT to be there. Obama is more responsive to us than any president EVER. Don't use these issues as an excuse to diss My President. ...and I am a 59 year old lesbian...

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:53am
  41. For an athlete competing in the Olympics is a dream come true. They want to go and the best we can do as Americans is make sure nothing bad happens to out representatives while they are there. Just ask those athletes who didn't get to compete in 1980.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:55am
  42. Bravo Mr. Obama….Any more world leaders willing to step up to the plate???

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:11am
  43. The French and German presidents are doing the same.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:14pm
  44. Bravo French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck....!!!!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:33pm
  45. I am worried for their safety, but as long as they are safe, it’s a great way to show Russia that there is nothing wrong with being gay!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:13am
  46. i hope that they come back from russia safe.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:31am
  47. Russia wouldn't dare try anything, that'd be a dumbass thing for them to do

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:02pm
  48. No one should be going. That would be a statement

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:13am
  49. yes, but it would also deprive the athletes of what they've been training for... however, no one showing would be a huge statement!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:15am
  50. Cindy...I agree that would be ideal but the athletes want to go...

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:54am
  51. Ask the athletes who didn't get to compete in 1980.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:56am
  52. My hero for more than one reason!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:16am
  53. Very interesting……

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:17am
  54. I’m sure they will have to be looked after most are anyway the hotel they stay in is guarded and such. I like how Obama doesn’t make a big deal out of people being gay if they’re good at what they do that’s good enough I think he would just legalise same sex marriage everywhere if he didn’t have so many people opposing him.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:18am
  55. Well he should also send two soldiers along with each athlete!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:21am
  56. well played

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:22am
  57. about time yahooooooooooooooo

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:24am
  58. That’s my Baracky! How come I can’t like this a million times over?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:24am
  59. Once again politics comes into the games, i fear for there safety, but way to go obama be one in the eye for putin if they win all gold lol

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:25am
  60. The more we can send the better and the safer. I just hope Putin doesn’t do something stupid like try to arrest them because they are LGBT!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:25am
  61. Bhahahaha!!! Classic!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:27am
  62. go fuck yourself russia w/ that homophobic bullshit.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:30am
  63. im sure they already have

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:02am
  64. So he’s risking the lives of innocent individuals in order to send a message to Russia, are you kidding me?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:31am
  65. PERFECT!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:32am
  66. Yes!! Russia just got trolled!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:34am
  67. Nice! :D

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:35am
  68. Let’s just hope Russia doesn’t send a “clear message” to Obama that they don’t give a shit about gay people by not allowing these people to leave the country.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:35am
  69. There was a statement somewhere that Putin said he would be treating all olympians the same as to what the olympic agreements/laws are and one of the biggest is the no discrimination and such... I could be wrong, but I thought I read something about him saying everyone was welcome to the olympics!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:48am
  70. Sending a message?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:37am
  71. Now, are they being sent BECAUSE they are gay, or did they qualify thru the normal channels and just happen to be gay. I support the latter, but not the former

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:39am
  72. I doubt that their sexuality had anything to do with being selected for our squad.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:57am
  73. The Russians are always been backwards. Just look at their space program. lol

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:45am
  74. i hope she kicks Putins’ ass! which probably wouldn’t be all that hard

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:47am
  75. good. be safe.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:49am
  76. Poop put lesbian or gay soldiers as guards ;-)

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:51am
  77. Well said, Lee! I’m a 59 year old lesbian, too!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:57am
  78. Good call Mr. President.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:58am
  79. they should had change country and location that is so risky for all of them.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:58am
  80. if they would have done that they might as well should have cancelled it, since one a country gets told they won the bid to host, the start preparing for people to arrive typically years in advance, and for the IOC to just up and change it, because one assholic country chooses to be backwards and stupid, it would pretty much end the Olympics in disaster for whatever country the picked as a substitute.. personally if it feasible, id think the IOC should pick two countries with one as a back up just in case stupid crap like whats going on in Russia happens to begin with, and still be able to have the Olympics.. besides 9/10 if russia does something stupid to our delegation and our athletes or government would probably see it as an act of war..

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:47am
  81. as it should be a act of war

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:07am
  82. I want them in drag…dang it.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:03am
  83. Many LGBT athlete’s. Probably more than straight… that’s the vibration my gaydar is sending. And we are not the only country with gays. I hope the Russian LBGT are watching. thank god we are a community with a network. We can only hope The other countries have such a network. I wish we could do something to make a statement. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone wore a rainbow arm band during the parade?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:08am
  84. Probably need to send armed guards, too.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:10am
  85. You Rock BARACK!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:12am
  86. Hope Obama sends US Marines with them

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:13am
  87. The Olympic Committee should have considered this prior to choosing Russia. If anything happens. They will be faulted as much as Putin. This was irresponsible of them.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:15am
  88. Didn't Russian make the anti-gay laws after it was settled that the Olympics would be held there? I could be wrong, but that's when I first heard about it... at least that's the order I heard of things...

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:43am
  89. I think you may be right but the IOC needs to be aware of these things that may put people from all Over the world.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:53am
  90. * In danger.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:55am
  91. Go POTUS! You my Prez!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:16am
  92. Still won’t be watching or buying any products from the advertisers at the event for 6 months. That’s my input. May not be much but it’s mine

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:16am
  93. Wow, this is wonderful and I am so glad that President Obama will not attend. We are sending a very powerful message!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:21am
  94. Like our black athletes at the Berlin Olympics. Pull your head out Russia.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:24am
  95. What is the USA doing to ensure their safety?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:25am
  96. I hope they also send armed bodyguards and a shit load of lawyers just in case….

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:28am
  97. Great move

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:33am
  98. Good!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:37am
  99. I worry about their safety we well, but wtg President Obama! Not only does he boycott but sends LGBT in his stead, wonderful!!!!! Well played!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:37am
  100. Right on!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:45am
  101. I hope Pres. Obama included a security team to protect those gay athletes of ours.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:46am
  102. Putin sucks

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:49am
  103. Fundies heads are EXPLODING!! Can you hear it??

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 1:51am
  104. LOL what a great move. They best not mess with Billie.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:10am
  105. Does he want to get them killed? Russia is so anti.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:10am
  106. Yes!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:16am
  107. Good for her but Prez should be there with a gay pride tie on!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:20am
  108. Very glad to discover that President Obama is choosing to personally boycott the Olympics in Russia.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:33am
  109. oh my… this is a bold move, lets hope they remain safe. but well…. fuck yeah that happened

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:40am
  110. What wrong with that,we all God children.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:40am
  111. Billie Jean is NOT Russia’s Lover!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:46am
  112. cool

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:56am
  113. Billy Jean you are a hero

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:05am
  114. BRAVO

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:09am
  115. Billie Jean could beat Putin in any sport

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:11am
  116. Gays get arrested in Russia – he’s just sending the lambs to slaughter – (my opinion is he is an idiot)

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:12am
  117. They must be safe at all c0sts. I d0n’t wish t0 see them martyred.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:13am
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    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:15am
  119. God be with you, and come home safe….

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:36am
  120. Shit he’s trying to get the white people killed lol

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:37am
  121. I fear for these athlete’s lives. They are so brave.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:51am
  122. … BRAVO Obama!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:56am
  123. like like like like like. take THAT, Putin

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 3:59am
  124. yayyyyyyyyyyyyy

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:13am
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    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:31am
  126. Why isn’t he going! He should be there to support all of the athletes! Gay or straight!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:45am
  127. GREAT MOVE OBAMA! May she be safe!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:01am
  128. Those people are already dead

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:05am
  129. And we are participating because…?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:06am
  130. Heroes all!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:22am
  131. Fabulous! These are some of our most respected citizens.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:42am
  132. I will be praying for you!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:43am
  133. HELL YEAH

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:49am
  134. Some people are just hateful.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 6:06am
  135. Good for him!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 6:54am
  136. Don’t go.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:12am
  137. They will be fine. USA wouldn’t go to war with Russia because they haven’t any oilfields.
    Truth….unkoch amerika.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:28am
  138. where is Martina? Billie, are you gay?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:07am
  139. why a lesbian ?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:09am
  140. MGreat but Obama should also be putting pressure on all the American sponsors of the games to withdraw their sponsorship until Russia or face financial sanctions against the bigoted regime

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:41am
  141. Incredible role model.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 11:12am
  142. The best way to highlight the cause would be for medal winners to kiss like lovers with their fellow winners rather than shake hands.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 11:48am
  143. I just hope they stay safe.. This is all I am worried about.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 12:50pm
  144. Billie Jean wont take any shit

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 4:44pm
  145. I hope they’ll be safe. :3

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 5:27pm
  146. very courages of them and the president

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 6:38pm
  147. Why doesn’t the president get off his ass and actually do something for the community? He can sit there and say he supports ssm but what has he actually done about it? Were fighting state by state and country by country by our damn selves. He’s using you for votes and support i just wish you people would wake up. He’s supposedly against the treatment of gays in Russia. So instead of doing or saying something about it himself. He’s staying at home and letting us take care of it. As usual.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:14pm
  148. Yes. Russia needs to take an example of countries who are for inclusion instead of exclusion.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:06pm
  149. I hope that they will have super security because Russia is a scary place for Gays.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:51pm