NBC Will Wait To Address Russian LGBT Human Rights Violations Until 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

This afternoon, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus told attendeeds at the TCA Summer TV Press Tour that the network will take a wait and see approach to the anti-gay laws and social injustices taking place in Russia.

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

LazarusRussia's draconian anti-gay laws are stirring up controversy for NBC Sports as the division prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus would not directly address the issue at the division's Saturday afternoon Television Critics Association press tour session. But he promised that if the controversy was still front and center come Feb. 6, when the company's 18 days of coverage begins, it would not be swept under the rug.

"We'll address it at the time because it's still unfolding," said Lazarus, adding that the IOC has taken up the issue with the Russian government.  "The IOC has addressed it with the Russian government and has assured athletes, fans and media that there won't be any issues," he added. "Governments across the world have different laws. I don't know now it's going to [affect] us. If it is still their law and it is impacting any part of the Olympic Games we will make sure we are acknowledging it and recognizing it."

More from the LA Times:

NBC's veteran sportscaster Al Michaels said, "there will always be controversy surrounding [the Olympics]. It all seems to work out."

According to Lazarus, the International Olympic Committee has said that gay athletes will be welcome in Russia and encouraged to compete. "Obviously, as a company, we are for equality and opportunity for all," Lazarus said. "We don't believe in the spirit of the law they have passed, and we are hopeful the Olympic spirit will win out."

Comments

  1. Paul R says

    What an inspiring and reassuring series of quotations (from two speakers):

    “If it is still their law and it is impacting any part of the Olympic Games we will make sure we are acknowledging it and recognizing it.”

    Which means less than nothing.

    “There will always be controversy surrounding [the Olympics]. It all seems to work out.”

    Sure it does. Nothing bad ever happens anywhere, especially Russia.

    “Obviously, as a company, we are for equality and opportunity for all.”

    Well, obviously, sure, of course. Just like all companies, as long as there’s money in it. Otherwise, screw it. (Dammit, why did we pick Russia??)

    Has there been much coverage of this issue in the mainstream media? I’ve not seen any, but I’ve been away recently, blissfully cocooned from this neverending saga.

  2. gomez says

    yeah don’t be so fast to throw a big old hissy fit, gays, you see governments across the world have different laws and it’s all going to work out.

    what milktoast pap. replace gay people with any other minority in these laws, and then make the same patronizing statements.

  3. john patrick says

    They’re waiting till Winter 2014? The violence and repression are going on now. They should be doing ongoing reports, uncovering and reporting what is happening now. And so should other world media agencies.

  4. Smitty says

    NBC’s veteran sportscaster Al Michaels said, “there will always be controversy surrounding [the Olympics]. It all seems to work out.”

    Like Munich, Al?

  5. Elsewhere1010 says

    NBC’s express desire to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds is an inadequate response to the situation. It’s time for actions to match words, and I guarantee that both people and corporations will be judged not by what they say, but by what they do.

  6. Contrarian says

    If the Russkies were calling for Israel to be wiped out, and arresting people named Rosenberg would this member of the chosen people, Lazurus be singing a different tune? In a New York friggin minute. Guess which minority must never be criticized and guess which one can be thrown under the bus. But please realize the Olympics stopped being about the purity of competitive sport a long time ago.

  7. Jerome says

    Get over yourselves. This major American TV network is not passing on the Olympics. Who will know? Are there many gay athletes? Gays always need something to be indignant about — especially ones that have no life.

  8. Tom in Lazybrook says

    Wanna really make NBC pay? Switch from Comcast to Uverse (Dish is anti-Gay) or DirecTV. Each customer is worth about 5 grand over 5 years. Comcast pays the IOC millions to reward them for being extremely anti-American, provide a forum for anti-Gay countries to ‘look good’, basically bar Gay persons from participating in the Olympics safely and with respect, and ignoring the needs of the LGBT community. Why pay them 80 bucks a month, especially if there are other options. Besides, Comcast has one of the worst customer service ratings ever.

  9. Rafael says

    @TOM IN LAZYBROOK Uverse isn’t good. But there are many options: FIOS from Verizon. LTE. Satellite Viasat Exede and WildBlue (which works anywhere there is a clear sky). Google fiber where available.

  10. alex says

    I’m curious to hear what people expect Comcast to do. Whether you acknowledge it or not, Comcast is a for-profit company. At this point, if the company tries to force a sovereign nation to change laws, the likely outcome will be NBC getting banned from entering Russia. No company is going to risk their $4.3 billion investment by doing that.

    Too often, people fail to acknowledge the facts. Anyone that’s been to business school will tell you that making a profit is the mission of for-profit companies. Expecting a company to risk a $4.3 billion investment over a divisive social issue is naive. Additionally, why should Comcast be held responsible for fixing the mess created by the IOC?

    But, for me, the bigger question is whether we want large corporations involved in shaping the laws of sovereign nations. History shows us that companies that gain that type of power tend to abuse it.

    It’s interesting that recent articles have people up in arms because Target gave money to political groups to gain a level of influence. Yet, here, people seem to want a private, for-profit company to try to influence the laws of another country. You can’t have it both ways.

  11. Bill says

    @ David C: “And if it were Jewish or Black people? What then?”

    … well, there’s a precedent for that. Jesse Owens, a Black American won four gold metals in the 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin. Hitler apparently sent Owens a commemorative inscribed cabinet photograph of himself (at least, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Owens ).

    If Hitler could send a Black American a photo, I guess Putin can handle a few gay athletes, particularly since there is a lot of money for Russia to lose otherwise.

  12. Marc C says

    It is important to note that this response is coming from the Sports department and not their News department. I wouldn’t expect much more than this from the Sports department. On the other hand, the News should be attacking the issue with gusto and so far, the reporting on the whole has been scant from NBC and other networks.

  13. Chiedu E says

    It astonishes me that the message continues to be that TOURISTS and ATHLETES will be safe. What about the CITIZENS? What about the teens being hunted by neo-Nazis? What about the LGBT people being attacked by mobs for having a Pride Parade?

    Screw the Olympics. Human life is worth much more than sports.

  14. Rexford says

    The reporter over at Deadline (Lisa De Moraes) snarkily concluded their piece on NBC’s announcement with:

    “While we may get no coverage of Russia’s new anti-gay laws during NBC’s Olympics coverage from that country, we will get an NBC Sports documentary about Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. NBC Sports announced at the Press Tour today it will commemorate the proud moment in which the ex-hubby of Olympian Tonya Harding had Olympian Nancy Kerrigan’s knee clubbed ahead of the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. NBC’s Harding/Kerrigan documentary joins ESPN’s Harding/Kerrigan documentary, in the growing pantheon of Harding/Kerrigan documentaries. NBC Sports, however, says it’s got the exclusive sit down with Kerrigan; ESPN, which came to press tour a few days earlier, said it was still trying to land Kerrigan.”

    So apparently that type of clubbing gets their attention.

  15. MikeBles says

    NBC’s investment in the Olympics needs to be threatened by even bigger losses due to domestic boycotts. Don’t go after Stoli. Go after NBC, Coke, McDonalds. As soon as they see a threat that outweighs their Olympic investment, they will be the first to demand that the IOC move the games.

  16. JMC says

    I think it’s pretty clear at this point that nobody cares about what’s going on in Russia except for gay people and that there will be no significant or responsible action taken regarding the Olympics.

  17. EJC says

    It all boils down to money!
    If the major sponsors threaten NBC with a pull out unless they took action there isn’t a chance in hell that anything will change and the games will go on. NBC investment is based on sponsorship and that is the real truth. No sponsors! No games!

    So basically the lost dollars in revenue would make the difference, only them would NBC have the guts to make a stand and move forward, not buying Russian vodka doesn’t mean a thing, losing General Motors, Ford MacDonald’s and the other high-end sponsors that were it hurts in money department. Think about it!

  18. Michael says

    Give me a break. This is the same network that deleted any and all gay aspect to any story they covered.

    What’s unreal is I haven’t seen any coverage about the persecution of gay people in Russia on any mainstream news network. Sure, there are links within these comments but it’s been completely avoided.

    I can just see NBC’s segment, “Russia doesn’t like gay people, now here’s that 15 back-story about the sweet little skier and her boyfriend.”

  19. Joe in Ct says

    Pretty much what I would expect them to say when they fully expect this issue to be old news by the time the games begin. Let’s hope the pressure escalates.

  20. Caliban says

    NBC Sports division or News division, that was an utterly bullsh!t statement. “Eh. If the problem hasn’t disappeared by then maybe we’ll get around to addressing it. And hey, so long as athletes and tourists aren’t bothered during the Games, who cares? The Olympics are a feel-good money maker for us, so don’t harsh our buzz, dude!”

    And chances are that athletes and tourists WON’T be bothered during the games. Putin knows what a public relations disaster that would be so the Russian police AND public will be kept on a short leash for those, what, two weeks?

    Obviously there will be no boycott, whether you think it’s a good idea or not. That would get in the way of a very small number of people making a sh!t-ton of money. IMO, the way to go forward from here is to make an International effort to get gay athletes AND allies (these athletes are young so probably allies on some level) to wear a uniform patch or pin the acknowledges the problem and then compete as normal. If enough athletes wear the insignia it will FORCE the networks to mention it and address the issue.

  21. Tom Chicago says

    What’s to wait for? It is already happening, and it is not merely about the small group of people who would identify as gay Olympians. It is about a much larger group that forms the backdrop of a much larger atrocity.

  22. j says

    what’s needed is a campaign to boycott the Olympics – threaten that and I bet that Russian law is rescinded in a month –
    actions have consequences – we should have boycotted the nazi Olympics of 36(?) we didn’t – to our shame.
    Imagine if Russia had passed a law like this against ethnic/racial minorities or Jews – there would be non stop calls for a boycott – and it would happen. The Russians should pay for passing this law – nothing else will matter – pour all the Russian vodka down the drain – it will have nothing but a small symbolic effect – this has not registered at all outside of the gay press – try finding coverage of the Russian anti gay laws as it relates to boycotts of Russian products or their black sea Olympics – it’s not there –the lgbt civil rights organizations need to make this a world wide issue – – related – where is the campaign to pull DOS funding from African countries which are persecuting their lgbt citizens?

  23. jomicur says

    NBC has yet to so much as acknowledge that there are gay athletes competing in the Olympics. Expecting them to cover this horrendous violation of the human rights of gay people–and not just during the Olympics–is probably too much to expect of them. (Keep in mind the NBC is owned by Comcast, one of the more homophobic corporations around.)

    We have to keep up the pressure on NBC to cover Russia’s heinous violation of human rights. Even if there are no incidents at the Olympics, the lives of millions of Russian gays will be affected by these laws. We must not let NBC–or any other MSM outlet–get a pas on ignoring this.

  24. Joe says

    It’s hard to get Americans to care about anyone else but themselves never mind gay people from somewhere else.

    This campaign needs to directly tie the watching and supporting of the Olympics with the torture of children in Russia for it to be effective and it needs threaten their profit margin for any American corporation to respond.

  25. walter says

    Sorry NBC but won’t be watching your telecast and will probably stop watching your networks. I will miss watching Maddow but she is included in your network. Also any sponsor of the telecast of the olympics will not get any money from me.

  26. alex says

    @MickyFlip And it’s an uncomfortable truth, which is why everyone is ignoring my post.

    I’m still flummoxed that people want a for-profit company to get involved in changing/making laws in an independent state. No corporation should have that ability.

    Imagine the outrage here if a foreign company tried to tell us that we need to change a law they didn’t like. That scenario isn’t impossible. In some industries, a disruption from the norm can cause chaos on Wall Street. Even a threat could lead to problems.

    Example: If one of the major oil tanker companies ceased deliveries to the US to protest a law the company didn’t like, we’d be in serious trouble.

  27. Continuum says

    Sounds like NBC is looking to kick the can down the road in hopes that people will forget by time that 2014 comes around.

    Seems like now is the time to start putting pressure on NBC’s advertisers as well as NBC.

  28. Paul R says

    The odds of the Olympics suffering a widespread boycott or being moved out of Russia over this issue are nil.

    Such efforts are being driven by a small, not particularly organized group of gay Americans upset about Russian laws that many countries couldn’t care less about and some even support. NBC recognizes that, and knows that every day that passes without broader awareness makes a strong response even less likely.

    Truth be told, I bet the average American LGBT has no knowledge of antigay laws in Russia—much less deep concern about the suffering of LGBTs there. So good luck firing up global support from the tens or (likely) hundreds of thousands of LGBTs and allies that would be needed to provoke change. We have too little to fight with at this stage, and it’s unlikely that horrific torture of LGBTs will elicit broad empathy or action, especially since some were victimized because they were seeking to hook up for anonymous sex. All reasons that Russia never should have been chosen in the first place.

  29. Josh says

    Until gays realize that they are universally despised in certain parts of the world, they can never live their own lives. That’s unless never ending protest is living. Does our army fight for same sexuality? Fighting for the “same” anything has its’ moment, peaks, then vanishes like yesterday’s news.

  30. emjayay says

    “It astonishes me that the message continues to be that TOURISTS and ATHLETES will be safe. What about the CITIZENS? What about the teens being hunted by neo-Nazis? What about the LGBT people being attacked by mobs for having a Pride Parade?”

    Exactly, Chiedu E. Except that I’m not the least bit astonished. Capitalism hasn’t changed Russia one bit. It’s just a new version of the state and business and for that matter the church being one thing.

    The state is saying “Don’t worry tourists. We only gay bait and incite violence against our own gay people for political gain. We only torture and jail and kill critical journalists here, not sports newsguys. We want to make lots of money off the Olympics so we will treat you people according to your more enlightened standards. Maybe we’ll even be nice to our gay people while you are here watching. Not those Pussy Riot girls of course, haha. Heck, maybe we’ll even allow protests a couple of miles away behind a chain link fence where no one can see them like China did just to show how open we are. Did we mention excellent tickets are available and also buy some delicious Cokes and McDonalds?”

  31. bill says

    Go after anyone, any company, any politician, any network, ANYONE…who does not actively oppose this. This is not just about sports…it is about HUMAN LIFE. Who the hell cares who can ski or skate when people are being destroyed. We waited around to see in World War Two and millions died…NEVER AGAIN !!!

  32. rjp3 says

    You mean you are shocked that a bunch of corporate sell-out straight people making more than must of us will ever see in our lives really do not care gay rights?

    Shocking.

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