“The Olympics are not the place to make a political statement,” says Johnny Weir, the gay former U.S. figure skating champion, who has been signed by NBC to comment the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Weir*, an outspoken gay rights activist who recently married a Russian-American man, told The New York Times that he does not plan to speak out against a controversial new Russian law banning promotion of “nontraditional” sexual orientations while covering the Sochi Games.
“I’m not a politician and I don’t really talk about politics. You don’t have to agree with the politics, but you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting,” Weir was quoted as saying.
Talking to NBC’s Today show, Weir said, “I’m a gay American. I’ve married into a Russian family… I’ve been a longtime supporter of Russia, the culture, the country, the language, everything about Russia … While this law is a terrible thing that you can’t be gay publicly in Russia, I plan to be there in full support of our brothers and sisters there and not be afraid. If I get arrested, I get arrested; if not, great”.
In his interview with The New York Times, Weir admitted he was aware of his delicate position as a gay Olympic athlete and media personality covering the Sochi games. “The gay community has not reacted well to me because some people think it’s my responsibility to be an activist,” said, with the newspaper noting that his husband also wanted him to “be more on the side of the gay team.”
The controversial Russian law, signed by Vladimir Putin in June, bans the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientations” among minors. The Kremlin insists the law does not prevent adults from making their own sexual choices or discriminate against homosexuals in any way and is aimed solely at protecting children. “It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been gay my whole life,” Weir told The New York Times. “I don’t need to break any laws or wear a rainbow pin to show people that I support gay rights. I think I’ll do that just by being in Sochi and supporting our people there and know they are not alone.”
(*Weir is a three-time US figure skating champion, who competed in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics)
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.