WASHINGTON — The United States Olympic Committee has added a ban on sexual orientation discrimination to its code of conduct, the head of the USOC announced Friday.
At the USOC assembly on Friday, USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun said, "[Y]esterday, our board voted to amend the USOC's code of conduct to include specific mention of sexual orientation in our own non-discrimination policy."
Regarding Russia's anti-LGBT propaganda law, Blackmun noted his support for athletes who have spoken out in opposition to it, including Nick Symmonds and Bode Miller. He said the USOC is "actively seeking more clarity from the IOC on what will and will not be regarded as violations of Rule 50 in the Games environment." Rule 50 bans "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda" from "any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
As for the USOC's unwillingness to actively press for a change in Russian law, Blackmun said, "The fact that we do not think it is our role to advocate for a change in the Russian law does not mean that we support the law, and we do not."
The bylaw change came in the "Commitment to Integrity" section. It now reads:
The USOC is committed to honesty and integrity as the cornerstone of our activities. In turn, the USOC expects you to conduct yourself in an ethical and legal manner as a representative of the USOC. This requires you to:
* Respect the rights of all individuals to fair treatment and equal opportunity, free from discrimination or harassment of any type, including, without limitation discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin or otherwise.
In his address, Blackmun said:
I want to address the legislation in Russia prohibiting advocacy of non- traditional relationships among minors. Even though we have been assured by the IOC that the new law will not directly impact anybody in Russia for the Games, it is important for us to emphasize that we believe the law is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Olympic and Paralympic movements. To bring that point home, yesterday, our board voted to amend the USOC's code of conduct to include specific mention of sexual orientation in our own non-discrimination policy.
We have told our athletes, your athletes, where we stand and we have given them the freedom to express themselves in the run-up to the Games however they see fit. I'd point to the comments made by Nick Symmonds and Bode Miller as good examples of that.
Through our Team USA Ambassador Program, we are communicating directly with athletes in an effort to educate them on the situation and give them guidance. We are actively seeking more clarity from the IOC on what will and will not be regarded as violations of Rule 50 in the Games environment and we will absolutely communicate what we learn to athletes and administrators alike.
As a sports organization, our mission is to help enable American athletes to win medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Our overriding obligation is to deliver a well-prepared team and to support our athletes, all of them. That is where we will continue to direct our energies. The fact that we do not think it is our role to advocate for a change in the Russian law does not mean that we support the law, and we do not.
The move comes days after nearly 40 lawmakers pressed the USOC for more action to protect athletes who will be competing at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia against potential anti-LGBT discrimination.
"We call on the United States Olympic Committee to ensure that any American athlete, or someone associated with an American team, is afforded the right to show solidarity with, and support of, LGBT people around the globe to be free from discrimination and harm," the letter read.
Patrick Sandusky, the USOC's communications director, first announced the change on Twitter Friday:
Chris Geidner is a Supreme Court correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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