As the countdown to the Sochi Olympic Games draws near, we will hear calls for the American government to boycott the Games over Russia’s hardline and oppressive stance on homosexuality. As a gay American, I say this is the worst possible solution to a problem that can best be highlighted for its ignorance on the field of play.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter led a boycott of the Moscow Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan raged on for several more years and now the United States military fights there.
In 1984, Russia led a boycott of the Los Angeles Games in retaliation and because of “chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria [were] being whipped up in the United States.”[
The only people to suffer through these boycotts were the young men and women who had devoted most of their lives to the Olympic ideal of sport. Young people who worked day in and day out for a goal which was snatched away by politicians who wanted to make a political point.
The athletes of Sochi deserve to have their Olympic ideals upheld and they deserve the opportunity to compete. Their lifetime dream is at stake here and to deny them their opportunity is not fair. A boycott goes against \ the Olympic movement and the struggle for equality by gays and lesbians through history.
For many young boys and girls hiding their sexuality year after year, the Olympic stage allowed them the opportunity to express themselves and in numerous cases come out as proud gay American athletes. If these young people had been denied their opportunity to compete, because of a political boycott, many of our greatest athletes may never have had the opportunity to rise to the top of their sport.
The President of the United States has made the right decision to withdraw from a planned meeting with Russian leaders in September, sighting Snowden and the anti-gay laws. Boycotting the Olympics may make a statement, but it would be the wrong statement. America’s commentary on the Russia’s hardline laws would be more effectively made on the field of competition, by athletes who compete as proud gay Americans.
On the field of play, these Americans can showcase their talents, the abilities and the fact that their sexuality makes them no different from any other athlete or human on the planet. By participating in the Olympic Games, these athletes can showcase that who we love is not what defines us, but the way we live that makes us great.
The Olympic movement has always been about putting sport over politic and if we, the gay community, want to be a part of that movement, we need to go to Russia and compete, not punish our entire Olympic family.
American athletes have competed in areas of the world that were not embracing or open to our ideals, but we have led by example on the field and that is what we should do again. Can you imagine a world without Jesse Owens running past Hitler defying his supremacy hyperbole?
For generations the Olympics have been held in parts of the world that did not live up to the American ideal, in 2014 those Games will again fall short of our vision, if we as Americans and gay Americans are to influence the way others think of us, our best form of combat is on the field, creating a witness for the entire world to see.