Earlier this week we reported on the IOC's feeble response to growing concern across the globe that it is not willing to uphold its own charter in support of LGBT athletes and fans, specifically Olympic Principle 6 which states, "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement." While IOC President Thomas Bach insisted that the Committee would work to make sure that the Sochi Games would be "free of any form of discrimination," Bach refused to make any specific mention of gay rights.
Yesterday, activist organizations Athlete Ally and All Out announced a new campaign "to protest Putin’s anti-gay and anti-human rights crackdown during Sochi" that focuses on upholding Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. Fifteen Olympians have already signed on to the campaign including Sochi bound Mike Janyk (Skiing) as well as Andy Roddick (Tennis), Nick Symmonds (Running), Steve Nash (Basketball) and Megan Rapinoe (Soccer):
"Principle 6 is a way for Olympians and fans to stand up for equality and protest the heinous Russian laws. Through Principle 6 we can mobilize and inspire mass support for the ideals set forth in the Olympic Charter. Even if the International Olympic Committee won't act, people around the world will," Andre Banks Executive Director and Co-Founder of All Out said.
“Helping to craft this petition to IOC President Bach is an important part of my work as an Ambassador for Athlete Ally and very much in step with being an Olympian,” said Cameron Myler, a four time Olympian who carried the US flag in in the 1994 Lillehammer Games. “Standing by idly while the values of the Olympic movement are in question is not an option for me and many others.”
“The Principle 6 campaign will take many forms because it is reflective of the diversity that the Olympic Charter has charged itself with upholding, " said Hudson Taylor, Executive Director of Athlete Ally. "We are launching the Principle 6 campaign with Olympic athletes because their action affirms the duty and honor of Olympic Movement. They are leaders, and just like they do in their fields of play, Olympians always seem to find new ways to inspire us.”
"With the eyes of the world on Russia during the Olympics, it's critical that athletes and fans show support for LGBT Russians who are subjected to cruel anti-gay laws violating human rights. Defending Principle 6 affords all of us a way to demonstrate this support, and our outrage at the Putin-led government, within the very spirit of the Olympic movement. We can't afford to lose this opportunity to push for change,” said Brian Ellner, a leading LGBT activist and member of the Athlete Ally Board of Directors.
As you may recall, there's been some debate as how best to respond to the recent spate of anti-gay atrocities and legal infractions in Russia, with proposals varying widely between an all out boycott of the Olympics to displays of civil disobedience at the Sochi Games. However, as Frank Bruni at The New York Times points out, the Principle 6 campaign could open up a new path for peaceful protest:
"[The campaign to uphold Principle 6] may well steer clear of the flaws and dangers of other ideas. It involves appropriating the I.O.C.’s own words and stated values and turning them into a coded affirmation of LGBT equality, an epigrammatic protest of Russia’s laws that doesn’t include the word “gay” or any of the conventional symbols of the gay rights movement. Russians wouldn’t easily be able to classify it as so-called gay propaganda, which the country deems illegal. And I.O.C. officials could hardly take offense and muster any opposition…The symbol and the syllables P6, perhaps worn as a sticker, perhaps woven into clothing, could evolve into something along the lines of a Livestrong bracelet: a ubiquitous motif that doesn’t spell out a whole philosophy but has an unmistakable meaning and message.
[Athlete Ally and All Out] want to make P6 the rainbow flag that’s not a rainbow flag, the shout-out for equality that sidesteps the syllable gay, which is so ridiculously risky in the context of these particular Winter Games.
For an athlete to wear a P6 symbol would be “like a Supreme Court justice tattooing the First Amendment on his or her arm,” Ellner said. “Is that political? No. It’s the Constitution.”
Check out the full list of Olympians who signed their names to the campaign AFTER THE JUMP…
You can also join the petition to Uphold Principle 6 HERE.