Advocates, Athletes Launch Clothing Line To Challenge Russian Anti-LGBT Laws Ahead Of Sochi Games
At least 34 Olympians and professional athletes announced their support for the effort, according to Athlete Ally and All Out. "We need to take advantage of this Olympic moment," a leading LGBT advocate said.
A new clothing line will use principles from the Olympic Charter to challenge Russian anti-LGBT laws and discrimination ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi early next year, Athlete Ally and All Out announced Monday.
The LGBT advocacy organizations said wearing the clothing — branded with Principle 6, the nondiscrimination clause in the Olympic Charter — will uphold the value of inclusion in the upcoming games and subtly underscore controversial anti-LGBT policies and discrimination in Russia.
"Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter says that sport does not discriminate," said Andre Banks, co-founder and executive director of All Out. "Our campaign is a way for Olympians and millions of fans to drive that message home to a dangerously negligent International Olympic Committee."
The organizations have partnered with American Apparel, which will launch the merchandise internationally Jan. 1. The Sochi Games kick off Feb. 7.
Several Sochi-bound Olympians including snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, speedskater Blake Skjellerup, and alpine skier Mike Janyk have teamed up to back the campaign.
"As an athlete, this is a concern for me going to the Olympics, but it must pale in comparison to what lesbian, gay, bi, and trans Russians are dealing with every day," Brockhoff said in a statement. "Principle 6 is a way for everyone, everywhere to celebrate the values that inspire the Olympic Games while showing support for equality in Russia."
Several other Olympians, such as four-time Olympic gold medal diver Greg Louganis, four-time Olympic luger Cameron Myler, two-time Olympic middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds, and dozens of others are also backing the effort.
Additionally, big names from major American sports leagues announced their support, including the NFL's Brendon Ayanbadejo, Scott Fujita, Chris Kluwe, and Donté Stallworth; MLS players Stephen McCarthy and Robbie Rogers; NBA/WNBA players Steve Nash (also an Olympian), Jason Collins, Teresa Edwards, and Kristi Toliver; and several others.
The athletes will promote the campaign by wearing the Principle 6 clothing while speaking out on the issue of ending LGBT discrimination in Russia. The IOC prohibits athletes from taking political action at the games, leading many to worry that such advocacy for LGBT equality in Sochi could lead to disqualification or even jail time under the Russian laws; however, that remains unclear. Advocates contend the clothing line will be permissible while making the message clear.
"Now there's a safe way for millions of fans and thousands of athletes to be visible and take a stand," Brian Ellner, founding board member of Athlete Ally, told BuzzFeed. "That's enormously important — we need to take advantage of this Olympic moment. Our next great challenge will be to keep the world focused on the real violence and intimidation the Russian LGBT community experiences because of these anti-gay laws after the games conclude."