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Out Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup Plans On Wearing Rainbow Pin To Olympic Games In Sochi

Blake Skjellerup
Openly gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup has already made his feelings known on Russia and the anti-gay laws it recently passed. According to the International Olympic Committee, athletes competing at the games have nothing to worry about. Whether or not that will actually be true remains to be seen, especially now that Skjellerup plans on wearing a rainbow pin to the games, according to Canada's Daily Xtra

In light of recent human rights atrocities taking place both in Sochi and throughout Russia, many LGBT and human rights activists are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games taking place in Sochi. Athletes like Skjellerup and figure skater Johnny Weir disagree. The speed skater told Daily Xtra that, "I think visibility is the best possible solution, as opposed to hiding away and not attending." He went on to explain...

“For me it’s less about taking a stand and more about just being myself...I have no interest in going back into the closet in Sochi...This is not about defiance. This is me standing up for what I believe in.”

Nevertheless, his small statement would almost certainly be in violation of Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law, which prohibits:

“Spreading information in order to form non-traditional sexual desires in children, describing such relations as attractive, promoting the distorted understanding of social equality of traditional and non-traditional relations and also unwanted solicitation of information that could provoke interest to such relations." 

Sochi olympicsTowleroad readers will remember that this law applies to foreigners as well, and that it was recently used as grounds for the arrest of four Dutch LGBT activists. Thus, should Skjellerup decide to make good on his promise, he would certainly be placing a great deal of faith in the IOC. As was noted by Daily Xtra, the Canadian government's travel advisory warns travellers to Russia to “exercise a high degree of caution.” 

RUSA LGBT, a Russian LGBT group based in New York, has expressed support for Skjellerup and his idea, and are even taking it upon themselves to manufacture rainbow pins for even more athletes travelling to Sochi. Yelena Goltsman, the group's founder and co-president, encouraged tourists to boycott the region. However...

"It’s not fair to ask athletes not to go. It’s not their fault. But maybe they can make a statement, and that can come from many counties.”

Goltsman also encouraged LGBT advocates to boycott major sponsors of the Olympics, including "Coca-Cola, Omega Watches, VISA, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Procter & Gamble, Samsung, McDonalds and Panasonic."

Is Skjellerup's idea worth pursuing? Or is boycotting still the best course of action? Will the rainbow pins pose a risk to any athletes who might choose to wear them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. NBC should fade its Peacock logo to black and white as they cover the Olympics of homophobia.

    Posted by: Vint | Jul 26, 2013 10:21:57 AM

  2. Wearing the pin outside of the Olympic Village could get you in trouble. Inside the Village it will not be that big of a deal...unless your country's committee bans any additions to your 'uniform'

    Posted by: Gus | Jul 26, 2013 10:26:30 AM

  3. This is clearly more of an opportunity to show support. The pressure should not be on countries to boycott, it should be on advertisers, athletes, and spectators/tourists to now, more than ever, show your support for the LGBT people of Russia.

    Posted by: Louis | Jul 26, 2013 10:32:00 AM

  4. Russia is beginning to implode so badly with its own stupidity and immorality that I'm not sure if it will even survive until the 2014 Winter Olympics.
    But kudos to Blake and his rainbow pin!

    Posted by: David From Canada | Jul 26, 2013 10:32:34 AM

  5. I like the idea of the athletes going & showing support, and the spectators staying home. The athletes bring little money to the host nation, but the visitors do.

    If they athletes that support us skip they will just be replaced by homophobes & that will be what people see on TV around the world. But if our supports go and show support that is what the world will see. Defiance in the face of oppression. If the Russians behave badly towards the athletes it will only cause more backlash for them.

    So, I support the Athletes going & showing support & I support spectators boycotting the games. That will make news & highlight the issue more than anything!

    Posted by: Nemo | Jul 26, 2013 10:33:20 AM

  6. May Blake Skjellerup be this generations Jesse Owens.

    Posted by: mrgig00 | Jul 26, 2013 10:36:25 AM

  7. Thank you, Blake.

    Posted by: David | Jul 26, 2013 10:39:41 AM

  8. I'm not completely sold on the idea of boycotting, but I do like the idea of wearing a rainbow flag pin to show support of gay issues. What these athletes should be doing is to encourage all their teammates---both gay and straight---to wear flags, especially outside the Olympic village. Stick it in Putin's eye and see what happens. He can't throw all the athletes in jail. Then he'd really have an international incident.

    Posted by: Doug | Jul 26, 2013 10:49:03 AM

  9. If 1000 or 2000 athletes show up at the opening ceremonies with rainbow pins and flags, who is going to arrest all of them? Let's go, boys and girls, it's time to get organized!

    Posted by: David | Jul 26, 2013 10:57:13 AM

  10. At first I was torn boycott and protest. One of the greatest moments in sports history was Jesse Owens winning multiple medals at the 1936 Olympics in Germany, beating Hitler's perfect "Aryans." Gay athletes and allies identifying themselves as such and wearing insignia (it would be cool if that button or patch was uniform and easily identifiable) and competing, FORCING the media to comment on it might be very effective.

    But in light of Russia's (big surprise) widespread corruption, abuse of foreign workers, and escalating oppression and abuse of LGBT people I really think it's time to say, "You know what? Go fvck yourself, Russia. We're sitting this one out."

    It was a mistake to have chosen this backward sh!thole as the venue in the first place.

    Posted by: Caliban | Jul 26, 2013 11:02:06 AM

  11. In an ideal protest, the athletes would all be wearing rainbow tape over their mouths during the opening ceremonies.

    Posted by: karashi | Jul 26, 2013 11:07:33 AM

  12. @ Karashi - yes and with NoH8 painted on their face as they walk in.

    Posted by: Dave in PA | Jul 26, 2013 11:10:09 AM

  13. @ Vint

    I think they should integrate their Peacock logo with the colors of the rainbow flag (which it looks like already)& keep the colors loud & bright! ;)

    Posted by: gus | Jul 26, 2013 11:10:37 AM

  14. The government of Canada has issued a travel advisory : July 26, 2013: The Laws and Culture tab was updated - LGBT travellers.

    Although homosexual activity is not illegal in Russia, a federal law has been passed that prohibits public actions that are described as promoting homosexuality and “non-traditional sexual relations”. This law could render any homosexual and pro-homosexual statements punishable. Public actions (including dissemination of information, statements, displays or conspicuous behaviour) that contravene or appear to contravene this law may lead to arrest, the imposition of a fine and deportation.

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travellers, as well as their friends and families, have been targets of harassment and violence.

    Posted by: excy | Jul 26, 2013 11:10:38 AM

  15. I think Karashi is more in line with where I stand on things.

    Posted by: JY | Jul 26, 2013 11:11:05 AM

  16. I'd like to see as many rainbow pins and badges on athletes as possible, and not just athletes from New Zealand and the US; athletes from international teams -- gay and straight -- anyone supportive of LGBT rights. Whole teams (or at least all who are supportive) in and out of the village. It should be an international campaign and rainbow badges should be worn 24/7.

    Posted by: Alex Parrish | Jul 26, 2013 11:17:54 AM

  17. Athletes should go
    Athletes and officials and commentators should express support to LGBT and human rights in Putins face, in russian language on russian medias, on Youtube etc
    People should stay home - dont go to Sotchi, it's a hole anyway.
    People should boycott advertisers and sponsors and make it known to them
    People should shame IOC for selling games to regressive countries and their dictators

    Posted by: Mark Twain | Jul 26, 2013 11:29:20 AM

  18. He is an Athlete; gay or not, I can not hope for anything but his destruction.

    Posted by: NullNaught | Jul 26, 2013 11:47:34 AM

  19. Good idea. I hope he does and many athletes from many countries will do the same from the Opening Ceremony when the whole World is watching.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Jul 26, 2013 11:49:15 AM

  20. Hit them where it will hurt the most. The U.S. and Russia are in the same group for ice hockey and every Russian will tune in to watch that game. The U.S. team should wear rainbow jerseys for that game.

    Posted by: Dan Mc | Jul 26, 2013 11:52:55 AM

  21. @ Dan MC: That's actually a good idea... any interest in starting a petition to have USA Hockey put rainbow patches on all of the Team USA sweaters? Perhaps Team Canada, too? So many of the players on the two teams are in the NHL, and the league is really pushing the "You Can Play" Foundation.

    Posted by: Rich F. | Jul 26, 2013 12:12:59 PM

  22. Nullnaught, what's your problem? Are you just trolling or is something actually wrong with you?

    Posted by: MateoM | Jul 26, 2013 12:20:58 PM

  23. @Mateom
    Athletics incite violence and homophobia. Gay athletes are traitors to the community.

    Posted by: NullNaught | Jul 26, 2013 12:33:54 PM

  24. Null, so your answer is both that you're a troll and that there's something wrong with you? Because that's one of the craziest things I've ever read on this site. All athletics incite homophobia? Gay athletes are traitors? That's an absurd perspective. Get lost. You contribute nothing to this comment section except nonsense.

    Posted by: MateoM | Jul 26, 2013 12:43:45 PM

  25. Reality: NBC nor the various Olympic orgs are EVER going to allow a boycott of an Olympics again for ANY reason. The economics are hugely different today from in 1980, by a factor of 20, roughly.

    If individual athletes boycott it'll have ZERO media impact.
    However, if LGBT athletes attend and speak out publicly against Russia's policies and violence against us, THAT could have tremendous impact. (Even wearing a rainbow flag pin could generate media coverage and put the Russians in an awkward position).

    Posted by: dw | Jul 26, 2013 12:48:13 PM

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