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With the Kremlin Cup in Moscow in October, Will the WTA Take a Stand Against Russia's Anti-Gay Laws?

Allaster

Towleroad reader Todd Bird sent a letter to Stacey Allaster, Chairman and CEO of the WTA, calling on the organization to pull the sanctioning for the Kremlin Cup scheduled for October in Moscow. The letter was published by Sports Illustrated.

KremlincupIt bears repeating, especially given the fear of Russian tennis players to say anything about the country's anti-gay laws at the U.S. Open.

Dear Ms. Allaster,

In light of the recent laws passed and subsequent atrocities being perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people in Russia, I call upon the WTA and you as their CEO to take a stand and pull the sanctioning for the Kremlin Cup scheduled for October in Moscow.

The WTA bills itself as a global leader in professional sports and this is their chance to put their money where their mouth is, or more importantly, to take the money away and put the spotlight even brighter on the oppression of LGBT people by the Russian government. As an organization that has consistently been the pioneer for equality in sports world-wide, the WTA needs to stand up for the people who are demoralized, tormented, and silenced by fear of retribution. As the Winter Olympics approach, more attention is being focused on this issue, but it is becoming painfully obvious that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is more interested in quashing the noise and buying into the rhetoric of the Russian government that LGBT athletes and fans of the Sochi Olympics will be "safe" so long as they keep quiet and don't cause a stir. But that is not enough. It appears they only want to ensure there will be no disruptions or stains on their signature event. The IOC (and so far the Olympic committees from other countries) does not appear to want to get their hands dirty with this issue. They may be condemning the law with their words, but turning a blind eye with their actions. And even if the words of the Russian government are true and no LGBT athletes or fans are in danger "that is only for two weeks." What about the other 50 weeks of the year? What about the rest of the country?

Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...

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UC Santa Barbara Tennis Coach Simon Thibodeau: 'I'm Gay'

The NYT profiles the coming out of Santa Barbara's women's tennis team, Simon Thibodeau:

Thibodeau“I’m gay,” he finally said.

There was awkward silence, mostly stemming from surprise. One player applauded. The rest smiled, shrugged and wondered about the summer schedule.

“No one thought it was a big deal,” said Erica Cano, captain of last year’s team and now an assistant coach. “All this big buildup, then: ‘Oh. O.K.’ ”

To Thibodeau’s college players, perhaps, it was not a big deal. But to him, it was a life-altering moment after years of inner turmoil. And to those in college coaching and tennis, Thibodeau’s public pronouncement of homosexuality promises to make him an unassuming pioneer.

“It feels so free,” Thibodeau said. “I’m not hiding anymore. If you ask, I’ll tell.”

According to the newspaper there are just a handful of out NCAA Division 1 head coaches - "Portland State women’s basketball coach, Sherri Murrell; the Kennesaw State men’s (and former women’s) tennis coach, T. J. Greggs; and Kirk Walker, the longtime softball coach at Oregon State, now an assistant at U.C.L.A."

It all makes Thibodeau, 40, a successful college coach with deep ties in international tennis, a candidate to become a public spokesman for barrier breaking in sports and a private counselor to those struggling to make sense of their feelings.


James Blake Ends Tennis Career, Condemns Russian Homophobia: VIDEO

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James Blake retired from tennis last night following his first-round defeat by Croatia's Ivo Karlovic at the U.S. Open. In his post-game press conference, Blake talked about being an African-American tennis star and inspiring young players but also talked about homophobia, the AP reports:

Afterward, he talked about tennis, but also causes dear to him. Blake has joined Athlete Ally, an organization working to end homophobia in sports. He lamented an athletic culture "where you're too often seeing a lot of macho sort of showboating when everyone should feel comfortable."

"Sports is a great equalizer," Blake said.

He condemned the law prohibiting gay "propaganda" in Russia, which is hosting the Winter Olympics next year.

"I think everyone at this point, when you look at numbers, someone in your circle, whether it's a family member or a friend, is gay, transgender, or bisexual," he said. "You should appreciate that those people are valued members of society, people that are doing something good in the world. They should feel comfortable to live their lives. I think any sort of policy that discriminates against them, that excludes them, is completely unfair in today's day and age. That's why I say we're 50 years out and there are still things going on that are discriminatory."

As long as we're looking back on Blake's career, let's have a look at this memory from 2006 courtesy of Evian water, when that career really broke out and he burst into the top 20 for the first time.

Check out one more shot, and a brief video of Blake's final moments on the court (if a clip of the post-game press conference described above becomes available, I'll post that too, AFTER THE JUMP...

Blake

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Russian Tennis Players Mum On Anti-Gay Laws at U.S. Open

During the U.S. Open, six female Russian tennis players were asked about Russia's anti-gay laws in interviews, and all either plead ignorance about the laws' existence or chose to keep silent, USA Today reports.

KirilenkoMaria Kirilenko (pictured) claimed, "I didn't hear anything about it," while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova said "I have my own opinion about this but I don't know if I should comment."

Nadia Petrova and 2004 U.S. Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova were the only ones who offered some degree of support, Kuznetsova saying, "You can be whoever you want to be as long as you're happy," and making the astute observation that, "In Russia if you don't support Putin you are in big, big trouble."

Both men's and women's tours go to Russia for tournaments after the U.S. Open, and just as with the Sochi Olympics, any gay tennis players and fans will have to keep their orientation and condemnation of the law under wraps to avoid arrest and prosecution under Russian law.


Novak Djokovic Challenges Grigor Dimitrov to a Courtside Strip Tease: VIDEO

Strip1

Novak Djokovic performed a strip tease at the Boodles competition (a warm-up to Wimbledon) in Buckinghamshire UK yesterday. The crowd loved it, goading him on as he slipped his shirt off and flung it around.

Djokovic then sat down and challenged his opponent, Grigor Dimitrov (the 22-year-old boyfriend of Maria Sharapova) to do the same.

Challenge

To the crowd's delight, Dimitrov complied.

Video, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Anti-Gay Protesters Disrupt French Open: Video

Frenchopen
A group of anti-gay marriage protesters (one of them a shirtless, flare-carrying masked man) stormed the French Open today, startling players Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.

MSNBC reports.

Security guards quickly grabbed the protester and dragged him to the locker rooms as a surprised Nadal looked on. The unidentified man was one of several shirtless men who donned masks to protest France’s same-sex marriage law, which went into effect several weeks ago.

Two other protesters were escorted off the grounds after they unfurled a banner reading, “Help! France tramples on the rights of children!”

Nadal won the match, securing his eigth French Open win.

Watch video of the protest, AFTER THE JUMP.

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