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NBC's Networks Devoted 119 Minutes of Coverage to Russia's Anti-Gay Laws During Sochi Games

HRC reports that over the course of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, "NBC has dedicated 1 hour, 59 minutes, 42 seconds across NBC, NBC Sports, MSNBC, CNBC and USA to discussing Russia’s anti-LGBT laws."

NbcsochiIn total, 30% of coverage aired on NBC with 66% on MSNBC and just over 3% on CNBC.  On the final day of the Games, there were three mentions of Russia’s persecution of LGBT people, including an interview where host Bob Costas asks International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach whether the IOC might change its policies to specify that certain things have to be in order in a country before the Olympics would consider going there.  After Bach stated that it was not the job of the IOC to influence politics, Costas went on to question the IOC’s decision to punish any athlete who spoke out against Russia’s mistreatment of LGBT people during official Olympic proceedings.

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Why Didn’t More Olympians Speak Out in Sochi Against Russia’s Anti-gay Laws?

German olympians

With the constant stream of athletes, politicians, and companies speaking out strongly against Russia’s oppressive anti-gay laws in the months leading up to the Olympics, you might have thought that Russian authorities would have their hands full dealing with up-in-arms activists once the Games actually began.

Unfortunately for the LGBT citizens of Russia, the public criticism from Olympic athletes was, for the most part, muted in Sochi. The Wall Street Journal reports:  

There were no high-profile proactive statements or blatant symbolic gestures by athletes. A few athletes criticized the law when asked by reporters to weigh in, and a Belgian performer who supports gay rights displayed rainbow colors, a symbol of the gay-rights movement, during her performance at the Games.

LuxuriaBut the only really noticeable pro-gay act inside Olympic Park came when Italian Vladimir Luxuria [pictured], a transgender gay rights activist, showed up at a women's hockey game in a rainbow skirt after broadcasting that she planned a protest. Police removed her from the park. A day earlier police detained her briefly after she unfurled a "gay is okay" banner outside the park.

So what happened?

Ashley wagnerThe paper points to the many athletes who said they had already gone on record against the anti-gay laws and felt that using the Olympic platform to promote a political or human rights cause would be an unnecessary distraction from the competition.

"I really have already voiced my opinion and spoken out," said U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner [pictured], responding to questions from reporters. Wagner has been outspoken in her criticism of the Russian laws. "My stand against the LGBT legislation here in Russia is really the most that I can do right now," she said. "I'm here to compete first and foremost."

How athletes in Sochi handled concerns over gay rights varied. Belle Brockhoff, the gay Olympic snowboarder who had promised to “rip on [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] ass” during Sochi interviews, failed to medal and was given minimal press coverage. Gay former Olympian Johnny Weir’s decision to work the Games for NBC but not directly address gay rights in Russia was met with scorn from gay rights groups in the U.S. The German team, meanwhile, debuted a rather gay-looking rainbow outfit for the Games [pictured above], but maintained a steadfast denial that it was meant as a protest statement against Russia's anti-gay laws. Other athletes felt that wearing the 'Principle 6' line of protest merchandise was the proper avenue for Olympians to (indirectly) speak out for LGBT rights. 

Billie jean king_2Tennis legend Billie Jean King, who was among the gay athletes in President Obama’s Olympic delegation, said she supported athletes’ decision to avoid public demonstrations that could get them booted, but disagreed that the Olympics isn’t a place for politics. 

"It is an unbelievable opportunity to exchange ideas and hear each other," she said, standing on a hotel balcony just outside Olympic Park. "Hopefully, out of all these athletes we will have some teachers."

To believe the Olympics can remain entirely separate from politics, she says, amounts to "keeping your head in the sand."

'68 saluteIndeed, using the Olympics as a platform for social activism is nothing new, with the most memorable incident being the black power salute by medal winners John Carlos and Tommie Smith in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. It’s sad to think then, that these Olympics came and went without a similar moment of solidarity with LGBT equality, especially when such international attention was given to the issue. Just imagine how iconic (and bold) of a statement could have been made if a simple kiss was shared between two same-sex medal winners on an Olympic podium while in Sochi.

Now that would have kept the conversation going long after the Olympic spotlight and journalists faded from Sochi. 

The International Olympic Committee, which is under pressure to be more selective in its picking of future host cities, has said it’s impractical to eliminate potentially controversial countries, otherwise the Olympics would be held “in only two places.” Putin, for his part, praised the IOC for taking a “risk” by entrusting the Games with Russia. In a post-Olympics meeting attended by IOC president Thomas Bach and committee members, Putin said one of the main aims of the Games was to show off to the world the new face of post-Soviet Russia, a country he has run since 2000. 

"It was important to show that we are a country with goodwill which knows how to meet guests and create a celebration not just for itself but all sports fans in the world."

With the Games over, however, one can't help but feel a sense of mounting concern for Russia's "goodwill" towards its already marginalized LGBT community. The removal of parenting rights for gay couples in Russia, for example, could very well be the next step in Putin's anti-gay agenda. 


Billie Jean King Arrives In Sochi, Talks Gay Rights

King

Billie Jean King arrived in Sochi, Russia this weekend as a member of the presidential delegation to today's closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics. She came to the country with a message to the LGBT community.

The McClatchy Foreign Staff reports on her thoughts on holding the games in Russia:

“Having the Winter Olympics here, the situation here in Russia, has opened up dialogue,” King said Saturday. “I’m always big on love over hate, and I think it’s important that everyone’s treated equally and good to each other. Hopefully, the LGBT community here in Russia knows that they’re not alone and we’ll learn from them.”

The also told the BBC she believes the International Olympic Committee should take into account a country's position on gay rights when considering it for the games.

"In the [bid] process it would be helpful. I would like to see it but I also understand it's not that easy." "If you can it would cut down the number of [eligible] countries. Sometimes it's good to go to a country where things aren't as good and help change things."I'm sure they'll [IOC] be looking at things differently the next time.

King had planned to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics but canceled due to her mother's failing health. Her mother passed away on February 7.

Watch a short ESPN interview with King in which she talks about Russia, the Olympics and Vladimir Putin, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Billie Jean King Arrives In Sochi, Talks Gay Rights" »


Bob Costas: Russian Government 'Is Hostile To Gay Rights'

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Bob Costas took a moment during NBC's coverage last night to comment on the state of human rights in Russia, one the first times during the Sochi Olympics wherein the network has acknowledged the issue on air.

Said the newscaster:

The Sochi games have gone much better than many feared and predicted. So far security has held fast, venues have been praised, athletes and spectators have almost unanimously cited the warmth and hospitality of their hosts. All of which is truly wonderful but should not serve to obscure a larger and more lasting truth.

While in many significant ways, Russian citizens have better lives than Soviet citizens of a generation ago, there’s is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria - and that’s just a partial list.

The Sochi games are Vladimir Putin's games, from their inception to their conclusion, and all points in between. And if they are successful on their own terms, as appears to be the case, then at least in some corners it will help to burnish the image of a regime with which much of the world takes significant issue. No amount of Olympic glory can mask those realities any more than a biathlon gold medal, though hard-earned and deeply satisfying as it is, can put out the fires in Kiev.

 Watch the full clip here.


Colbert's Olympics Reporter Buddy Cole Penetrates Sochi's Gay Underground: VIDEO

B_cole

Stephen Colbert's Olympics correspondent Buddy Cole (Scott Thompson) penetrated Sochi's gay underground to pay a visit to Mayak, the city's gay nightclub and have a talk with his owner.

After a brief discussion about Putin's non-traditional relationships with animals and his propensity to bare his nipples in public, Buddy Cole decided he might stay awhile, but chose to cover his own nips up.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

If you missed Cole's previous report on the gay extremist threat to Sochi find it here, and don't miss his visit with the U.S. speedskating team.

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Continue reading "Colbert's Olympics Reporter Buddy Cole Penetrates Sochi's Gay Underground: VIDEO" »


What Straight People Think About Gay Rights: VIDEO

Xelle

XELLE, the NYC-based pop girl group fronted by JC Cassis and Rony G, hit Times Square in the uniforms they wore in their "Red Flag" anthem against anti-gay oppression to survey the masses about Russia's anti-gay laws and gay rights.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "What Straight People Think About Gay Rights: VIDEO" »


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