U.S. Olympic Runner Nick Symmonds Speaks Out Against Russia’s Anti-gay Law

Nick Symmonds

In a blog post published Wednesday, two-time U.S. Olympic runner and ally Nick Symmonds joined a growing chorus of athlete voices in speaking out against Russia's anti-gay propaganda law. Symmonds used the post to reiterate his support for LGBT rights and express his desire to keep politics off the playing field in Sochi next year.

Says Symmonds:

As an American, I believe in freedom of speech and equality for all, and therefore disagree with the laws that Russia has put in place. Given that I am currently residing in London, I will say, once again, that our LGBT neighbors deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. However, as an American who is about to reside in Moscow for 12 days [for the track and field world championship], this will be the last time I will mention this subject.

I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation. Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend's house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.

I will say now what I said before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, when people asked me how I felt competing in a foreign country with questionable human rights standards: The playing field is not a place for politics. In a world rife with never-ending political battles, let the playing field be where we set aside our differences and compete for national pride and the love of sport.

If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country's generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union.

Hopefully, Symmonds will follow fellow athlete Blake Skjellerup's lead in wearing a rainbow pin at the upcoming Games as a sign of silent solidarity with human rights and LGBT equality.  

Comments

  1. Chris says

    I’m just going to say it: Our so-called “straight-allies” have no backbone. They aren’t really here for us. The only people the gay community can truly depend on is each other, which is why we need to stop fighting each other so much and start being more forceful.

  2. says

    Oh yay! SILENT DEDICATION! That’s really going to help! Thank you straightie for your passionate advocacy

    But gods forbid you lecture the Russian government on persecuting gay people

    why is this guy considered an ally again?

  3. Nick's a D.ick says

    @ Hypocritcal Nick Symmonds: “Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend’s house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.”

    Yeah? Well, I wouldn’t accept an invitation to dinner from a bigoted neighbor. Not even if I were getting an appearance fee.

    What’s more, you’d better hope your hosts/paymasters don’t get a look at the whore-commercial you made for Nike, because frankly Mr. NotQuiteGoodEnoughForGold, it don’t get gayer than that. Although, I would hasten to not that you didn’t show any balls in this commercial either.

  4. Jeff says

    Symmonds says: “If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home.”

    Right. And what if you lose, nose job? Russian boy says, “Ha! Simple Americans! We can trample on anyone’s rights that we want. We’re bigger and we win!”

    Any why effen SILENTLY dedicate your win to your LGBT back home?

    You score NO points. Go home.

  5. rustytrawler says

    As others have said, this guy does not seem like much of an ally… and nothing he says indicates he would wear a rainbow pin. Quite the opposite.

    I’d also just point out, human rights are not politics. They could not be more different.

  6. Zlick says

    SILENTLY dedicate your win to your gay and lesbian friends back home?!? I will not so silently tell you to Drop Dead, and No Thanks.

    Not that I object to everything he says. In sport, as in other international pursuits, you have to accept hospitality from some unsavory players. And yes, on one level it would be rude to bite that hand.

    But this athletic exception to political opinion involving human rights is absurd and unconscionable. The more these athletes proclaim an exception for their own pursuits, the more cowardly they seem to me.

  7. Francis #1 says

    Well, at least a straight athlete competing in the upcoming Olympics has spoken out against Russia’s anti-gay law. He may be the first American to do it, the first I know of, and very few in other countries have done so either.

    Nick Symmonds, I’m sure he believes in equality for LGBT people. But, clearly, he values athletics over the persecution of Russian gays, and potential persecution of LGBT Olympians. That comes as no surprise. I don’t expect very many straight athletes to put themselves out there for us. It just isn’t going to happen, unfortunately.

    As we’ve more or less seen this entire situation regarding Russia (and really, all countries with extreme anti-gay abuses) we’re basically in this on our own.

  8. Francis #1 says

    Really, it’s not even about Nick Symmonds. It’s about the fact sports are, clearly, placed on a pedestal ABOVE LGBT rights in the United States of America, and globally. If you didn’t think that was the case before, now you know. As much progress as we have made, we’re still near the bottom of the totem poll.

  9. Tina S says

    “Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend’s house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.”

    I believe his analogy is sadly off the mark. If his friend was known to abuse his children or allow others to abuse his children without defending them, would he even accept a dinner invitation? Sounds like he would. And then, if he saw them beating their kids or allowing other dinner guests to do so, he’d just keep quiet? This man is deliberately ignorant and self-serving.

  10. Jeff says

    Sorry to belabour the point, but… let’s play like it’s 1936 and Symmonds says:

    “If I am placed in a race with a German athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my Jewish friends back home.”

    He needs to take the tape off his mouth. Now is the time.

  11. J Y says

    Seems some people want others to give up years of work or a whole career or they will say they don’t care. Keep it up and frankly allies will leave your ungrateful side.

  12. TampaZeke says

    In Symmon’s smarmy, self-righteous sermon he failed to mention that the wonderful people who invited him to dinner (whom he was reluctant to “lecture on how to raise their child”) were beating them, torturing them, imprisoning them and looking the other way while others killed them or drove them to suicide.

    Somehow when this more accurate comparison is made, Symmons doesn’t look like the high minded gracious guest that he portrays himself to be but rather a shameful, selfish, asinine part of the problem.

  13. tommyz says

    If someone invited me to their house and I learned they were pedophiles – I wouldn’t go, if a crack dealer invited me to their house – I wouldn’t go, if a family that abused their children expected me to sit idly by and watch the abuse – I would leave. If a muslim asked me to come by but not bring my husband – I wouldn’t go. Guess we feel differently about this stuff.

  14. Zlick says

    Yes, we want our sports figures to have some guts. They don’t have to “give up” competing. I, for one, am not calling for them to boycott or not compete. But neither do they have to keep silent … and comparing competing in a sporting event that happens to take place in Country X to being an honored guest of Country X is specious and self-serving.

    Compete, Win, Make a Statement. Cowardice and Sportsmanship do not go well together.

    Of course, if you don’t care about this issue – so be it. But to say you care, and then say you’ll keep quiet about it so as to make no waves … well, that’s yellow-bellied, craven cowardice right there. Big Sports Hero. Bah.

  15. Jeff says

    @Tampazeke and TommyZ! Even if I were an athlete who had trained for years and years for this moment, I WOULDN’T GO! This is basic human rights 101.

    I’d LOVE to see all athletes just sit these Games out. I know it won’t happen, but the thought of it helps me get to slep at night.

  16. Jeff says

    All the Olympians should really Just Stay Home! How easy would that be? Just stay the eff home. You don’t think I’m worth it? You don’t think GENERATIONS of Russian gays are worth it? You don’t think torture and humilation and death of same are worth it?

    There ARE things more important than Olympic gold, silver and bronze.

    There WILL be other venues.

    #JustStayHome

  17. litper says

    Don’t know why my comment have been deleted.

    Don’t you see, he actually supports the anti-gay law by being silent about that! Please next time he wants to say anything about gay rights, kick him out! I really hope he looses!

  18. JONES says

    Nick
    Your analogy is a false equivalency.
    If you went to a friend’s house and they were allowing their children to be tortured and murdered in the back room while you ate dinner would you stand by silently? That’s the reality of what’s happening in Russia.

    You’ll be in a country where right outside the sports venue LGBT youth will be tortured and murdered while the state turns a blind eye. How do you forsake your humanity and stay silent? Being an athlete doesn’t make you a subtext of humanity. Life and how you participate in it is much larger than that sporting event.

  19. Sean says

    So basically while he is in Russia he will say go ahead Russia keep killing, torturing, raping, arresting LGBT people, journalists etc.. This is like someone going to a friends house for dinner and seeing them punishing their child with a fireplace poker fresh off the fire and saying I’m just your guest and I am not going to do or say anything while I sit by a watch you nearly kill your child.

  20. says

    If there were standards for who can pose for NOH8, he’d have the tape stripped off his mouth, the logo off his face and hands, and they’d have saved on airbrushing. Such a tepid and cowardly remark–pointless, really. If you’re going to speak out, stand for something besides maintaining a silent status quo.

  21. JONES says

    Nick
    You, like a lot of others, want to look at Russian anti-gay laws in as least a hostile light as possible. But they don’t work that way in Russia.
    The sad truth is that Russia is allowing a ‘pogrom’ against it’s LGBT citizens. Russia itself doesn’t inflict the torture and beating but allows other Russians to do it without fear of charges. That is what’s happening now. It’s happened in history many times and one thing history tells us is that the first salvo is usually the lest harmful. Like all bullies that go unchallenged it will only get worse. That’s why we’re facing up to this as quickly and with as much force as we can. And why we’re asking for help from all human rights affirming allies, gay or straight, worldwide.

    Putin and the Russian government will do nothing to you or anyone else that stands up and shows solidarity with Russian LGBT. They wouldn’t dare risk any kind of international incident over it. The more that are on board the better but even one single athlete taking a victory lap while holing a rainbow flag over their head would send a message of defiance and that the world knows what is going on.

  22. Thomas Cardellino says

    In my humble opinion, a lapel pin measuring 1/4 by 1/2 inch is a pretty pathetic way to understate the importance of the brutality, death and intimidation of Putin’s Hitlerian anti-LGBT pogrom he and the Orthodox Catholic Church are implementing in one of the largest countries on this planet. The label “democracy” has freely been tossed into the trash can of history by Russian citizens who are complicit with their elected officials and the medieval precepts of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Church whose priests and other minions, in the name of Jesus Christ the supposedly ultimate peacemaker, have battered and killed LGBT protestors with self-aggrandizing glee. Thuggery written into a country’s laws should be met with more than (even a million) tiny lapel pins. Rainbow flags should be carried alongside every “true” democracy’s national flag. The Olympic Uniforms of true democracies should have prominent design themes featuring rainbow colors, and let’s urge all medal winners to state their solidarity with the world’s LGBT citizens when they are near a microphone. Hitler started with the Jews, and then went on to the LGBT community, the Romany, and even the 7th Day Adventists! Putin must be rebuked for daring, now in the historically informed 21st century, for trying to return Russia to a Soviet style oligarchy with him at the helm because he does so with LGBT lives (and who knows whose lives next) at stake!

  23. renovato says

    Jones- ” even one single athlete taking a victory lap while holing a rainbow flag over their head would send a message of defiance and that the world knows what is going on.”

    Yes it would and what is more it would blend in with the colour scheme of the stadium.
    Check this out:
    http://www.luzhniki.ru/content/media/photo-gallery/93/
    How gay is that!! Rainbow flag colours right down to the track Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Oh! the irony.

  24. Dude says

    We have an amazingly diverse community.

    Most of the comments here about him and his opinion, I don’t think are appropriate.

    What everyone seems to be missing in this now extraordinarily tedious ongoing controversy is that none of us have significant influence alone on the human rights abuses situation in Russia.

    And despite the insistence that the boycotts are making any kind of difference to GLBT in Russia, all I see supporting THAT claim are the gleeful observations that some vodka companies that just buy potatoes from Russia are taking a hit in sales. Wow, that really is a profound impact. Not.

    You are demanding people that have worked hard for years to compete, just quit, to send a “message” that the Russian government could not care less about. They make the sacrifice, while you sit on your collective Queer asses in judgement.

    Frankly, as shallow and boring as I find sports in general, I find most of you far, far more childish, ineffectual, and inane.

    Lets see some of you make some sacrifices that are even remotely on par with what you are demanding the athletes make. THEN maybe you won’t come off like dingbats.

  25. will says

    I’ll bet there are a whole lot of closeted gay men & women in Russia who wish we, somebody, anybody would stand up for them. The most recent (2013) poll showed that 74% of Russians think homosexuality should not be accepted by society. 16% think it should. Those are crushing numbers if correct. Moscow courts have legislated a “hundred-year ban on gay pride parades”. All this negative propaganda creates an atmosphere that allows the thugs and bashers to florish.

  26. says

    @Dude
    Secure in your privilege without thought that the rights you take for granted were fought and won by others before you that had to face beatings, arrests, and mob mentality because few were on their side when they finally said ‘enough, I’m a human being’.

    Kinda like LGBT Russians right now.

    You want to exempt those who choose athletics for a living from a moral responsibility to speak out against torture and murder?

    And you call us inane.

  27. Tarc says

    Nick, I don’t have any problem at all with lecturing any government at all when it comes to basic human rights. As a citizen of the world, I’m perfectly entitled to demand equal rights for all humans.

  28. USC Trojans Fan says

    God, the word ally or friend of the community gets thrown around too flippantly these days. I swear….one straight dude attends a gay event and suddenly he’s an inspiring hero for the GLBT. Give me a break. This man’s statement made him as much of a supporter of our community as my gold fish sleeping it’s tank.

  29. Junior says

    Oh, just love our straight friends who don’t defend us in a fight when we need them and instead say it’s not thier place to get involved, but gladly attend upscale dinner parties attended by gays, and that just makes them a pillar for the community. Egads.

  30. Alejandro says

    Just proves that this NOH8 campaign attracted so many heteros who really didn’t ACTUALLY want to get their hands at all involved in ending hate, genuine hate, against our community around the world when presented with the opportunity. It’s so much easier to pose for an airbrushed picture.

  31. Alejandro says

    Just proves that this NOH8 campaign attracted so many heteros who really didn’t ACTUALLY want to get their hands at all involved in ending hate, genuine hate, against our community around the world when presented with the opportunity. It’s so much easier to pose for an airbrushed picture.

  32. Gio says

    I don’t think any athlete should boycott the games if they choose not to but this BULL about not telling other nation’s how to run their country? Eff borders….this is human rights we’re talking about and tha trumps some lame attempt to act like a Miss America contestant. Very very disappointed in this quote.

  33. Veejay says

    Some just don’t get it. Nor get the realities of the situation in Russia. Like this man, who I’m sure means well, but is just very ignorant on the topic. Let it not discourage us but instead motivate us to keep exposing the issue as we have so beautifully done the past few week.s

  34. Michelle says

    I’m sure he’s a nice guy and a great athlete but someone, anyone, any gay friend of his needs to kindly sit him down and spell out what is happening in Russia. Clearly no one has.

  35. Butch Chick says

    Hahahaha I love our straight friends who will ya know, support the cause if it’s convenient and doesn’t actually take much effort (ok, sit there and pose with duct tape. perfect! thank you for all that work) but when it involves actually, ya know, lifting a fork? FORGET IT. SORRY GAYS. you’re on your own. I posed for a photo. I did my part. Please be sure to tune in and watch me win a medal. Thanks.

  36. Bill says

    @Marty: “What’s that about?” … If they wont listen to the president of the U.S., why would he presume that the Russian government would listen to a talented runner instead?

    BTW, neither Russian athletes, nor German ones in 1936 to use Jeff’s example, have/had any say in what their governments do/did. For nearly all of them, training is/was a full time job with mandatory overtime.

    And the Russian athletes expect Nick Symmonds to do everything he can to kick their asses, just as they will try to kick his. It’s no surprise that he apparently doesn’t think of losing as an option – he wouldn’t get to go without being really motivated.

    As advise to Jeff, I wouldn’t bring up the 1936 Olympics if I were you, as it might be embarassing. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Owens#Berlin_Olympics (the web page about Jesse Owens, who was Black won 4 gold metals): “Owens was allowed to travel with and stay in the same hotels in Germany as whites, while at the time African Americans in many parts of the United States had to stay in segregated hotels while traveling. ” “After the parade, Owens had to ride the freight elevator at the Waldorf-Astoria to reach the reception honoring him.[4] FDR never invited Jesse Owens to the White House following his triumphs at the Olympics games. Since 1936 was a presidential-election year, Roosevelt was afraid that he would lose southern votes if he played Kowtow to a black man.” “Hitler sent Owens a commemorative inscribed cabinet photograph of himself.[15] Honors were not bestowed upon Jesse Owens by either President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) or his successor Harry S. Truman during their terms. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (himself an athlete of note) honored Owens by naming him an ‘Ambassador of Sports.'”

  37. Gigi says

    If nothing else, we still have many months before the games to talk about this tragic Russian anti-gay law, bringing even more attention to it. The “Dump Stoli” campaign might not have put but a slight dent into the profits of Stoli or other Russian products, but it certainly brought much needed attention to the Draconian law.

  38. Michaelandfred says

    Can we stop pretending, at the very least, that the Olympics are not political? It’s nation competing against nation for christ’s sake. Everything surrounding these two weeks is about nationalistic propaganda for all countries involved like at no other time. Heads of state, medal tallies, flags, anthems….. The Olympics are without a doubt THE most political event in the world.

    If we can’t even stop lying about that, it’s no wonder we can’t get any help on the bigger issue.

  39. Rick Smith says

    I will say it again, the Olympics are SPORTS! You are choosing to visit a unfriendly country. I have serious questions of exactly what type of ally a person like this is when they “silently dedicate the win” or “respect my host country” by remaining silent when you are on the biggest stage with the biggest opportunity to speak out. It’s being an ally of convenience. If you know your dinner party will include unruly children you have the option of simply not going.

  40. Johnny M says

    You don’t get it, do you? You’re a f**king coward, Nick Symmonds, pure and simple. You’ll “silently dedicate” your win to all us poor LGBT people? What if you lose? Will you silently dedicate that to us, too? We don’t need allies like this, people who are afraid to speak up when it’s most important. Your fellow LGBT athletes and your LGBT fans could be arrested or even worse…and you’re just going to sit there because the “playing field is not a place for politics”? Only someone drunk on his own straight privilege could possibly think that in a place as LGBT-hostile as Russia that everyone can just shut up and get along because we’re playing a game. F**K YOU, Symmonds. We don’t need you, and we don’t want you. Good bye.

  41. Brian Floyd says

    I just watched his NIKE® ad. The first thing that struck me was that he is basically the ‘Dumb Jock’, (and I don’t mean that as an insult; it’s a description), who happens to be strikingly good-looking, knows it, and uses it to his advantage.
    He’s managed to stay out of porn, as far as I know, but I don’t think it would take too much convincing to get him do it, if it didn’t affect his athletic career, which it probably would. He knows how to climb onto band-wagons, but he’s basically clueless as to what it’s all about.

  42. says

    “Most of the comments here about him and his opinion, I don’t think are appropriate.”

    Why aren’t they “appropriate,” @Dude?

    By posing for the NOH8 campaign, he branded himself an LGBT ally. No one forced him to do that, he chose to. So it’s reasonable to expect someone who brands himself as an ally to actually be one, rather than to be someone who advocates silent acceptance of disgusting LGBT abuse.

    And no one forced him to write a blog post. Presumably, one writes a blog post in part to get reader reaction. (Otherwise, why bother?) He’s gotten a reaction, some approving of his statement, I’m sure, others pointing out why they think he’s either poorly informed or taking a weak stand. It’s not at all inappropriate for readers to react to a writer’s work. In fact, it’s useful in forcing that writer to reevaluate his views whether or not he ultimately changes his mind.

  43. ProudnGay says

    If just 1% of us made the kind of sacrifices we’re demanding US Olympians make, then I might agree with the bulk of remarks here.

    But since none of you have any balls, and are basically hypocritical pieces of dog crap, I’ll side with the dumb jocks this time.

  44. michael says

    The more I hear what a lot of these athletes have to say the more I’m coming to believe that many of them are just privileged, self serving and narcissistic creeps. The more of them that open their mouths the less I desire to even watch the Olympics even if the issues in Russia found a positive resolution. They are all just turning my stomach.

  45. johan says

    “…If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home….”

    Dear Mr. Athelete;

    All that is necessary for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing.

    Thanks for nothing.

  46. Jerry6 says

    Let us get something strait: Russia made a bid to the International Olympic Committee to have the Games in Russia, and won. Now, everyone has to live with the “games” being held in a country that,like Hitler’s Germany in the 1930’s, is not exactly a Country of choice for most people to live in. The best thing all of us can do is to beat the SH## out of the Russians; enjoy their ethnic food and wine, and go back home to life in a free country.

  47. andrew says

    Nick, your heart is in the right place and I agree with much of what you said. Ignore the ideological purists who are intolerant of anyone who doesn’t agree with their views and tactics 100% of the time. You are indeed a good friend of the LGBT community. Go and win your race.

  48. Liz says

    Give me a break! Being an athlete at that level is short lived. He supports LGBT when he can. If you had a job that was your dream job & you had 1 presentation with a company that you knew did not support your lifestyle (yet your job did) would you chance loosing your dream job by not going to the 1 presentation??

    I understand that life can be tough and we should continue to be heard & fight for equality. But let’s not beat up 1 person for 1 event.

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