The discussion surrounding the Olympic games is dominated this year by one major issue: human rights.
While Russia does not boast a particularly great track record of treating their people well, those in the Russian LGBT community have been relentlessly persecuted in recent years.
Western culture gained an insight the struggles that the Russians faced when members from the activist band, Pussy Riot, were imprisoned for speaking out against President Vladimir Putin’s administration and policies.
Along with Pussy Riot’s activism, Russia came under major scrutiny as the Sochi Olympics grew closer. Russian legislation became increasingly more hostile toward Russian homosexuals, recently passing a law that forbids any adult from promoting homosexual propaganda in adolescents. Such behavior, according to Putin and his administration, includes gay pride parades and other forms of support.
Though same-sex marriage is not legal in all of the states in America, the recent Supreme Court decision that struck down DOMA made it unconstitutional for the federal government to ban same-sex marriage, thus creating a more accepting environment in American politics. As a result, the outcry from American activists against Russia’s discriminatory policy dominated the discussion about the Olympic games.
President Barack Obama showed his displeasure with Russian intolerance by not attending the opening ceremonies himself; instead, he sent a delegation of famous American homosexual athletes Bryan Boitano and Caitlin Cahow. Many in America took it a step further and chose to boycott the games, as well as many of the companies who sponsor the games, including Coca-Cola and McDonalds.
However, while we believe the state of affairs in Russia are deplorable, boycotting the Olympics is not the solution. Russians who also disagree with their country’s policies are robbed of their ability to speak out, and it is crucial that we now exercise ours, not in protest but in support of those taking a stand.
Americans should support the athletes who worked their entire lives for this moment to proudly represent out country. The public should support the openly homosexual athletes from across the nation who are competing, and it is even more necessary that we support those who have chosen not revealed their sexuality.
We need to show the people of Russia that we support them, rather than ignore them. We need to act as the Greek athletes did, walking in the opening ceremony with subtle rainbow gloves. The rest of the world needs to be there for the Russian people at this time, to show them that there is a better way.
Do not ignore our athletes. Support them.