To boycott, or not to boycott, that is the question.
All Out, a global gay rights group launched in 2010, and Athlete Ally, a U.S.-based organization that promotes LGBT inclusion in sports, released a joint statement today, calling on a political solution rather than a boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, over the country's anti-gay agenda.
A flurry of online petitions calling for a complete boycott of the games, its corporate sponsors and even NBC have cropped up recently. Some gay bars have even started their own boycott of Russian vodka.
But All Out Executive Director Andre Banks said today that a boycott of the games to protest Russia's anti-gay laws was not the most prudent way to send a message to Russian politicians.
Mixed signals from gay rights groups on Russian Olympics boycott
“We understand the anger and the call for a boycott, but right now it¹s more important for the international community to speak out than walk out,” said Banks.
“Olympians are world-class athletes. And some of them are gay. Many have family and friends who are gay. No athlete should have to sacrifice their passion for sport to secure their safety, freedom and dignity at the Olympic Games,² Banks continued.
And Banks is not alone in the call to resist boycott. Former Olympian Greg Louganis is not in favor of abstaining from the games, according to a New York Times article.
From the piece:
“Boycotts don¹t work,” he said, mentioning the tit-for-tat dynamic they can set in motion, reflected in the decision by the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries to skip the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. “Boycotts hurt the wrong people.” He was referring to the athletes caught in the crosshairs.
Athlete Ally expressed a similar position today.
“We have an opportunity with Sochi to build a global army of allies in the fight for LGBT equality and inclusion in sports,” said Brian Ellner, Athlete Ally board member. “We also hope to build critical momentum and pressure to overturn Russia’s anti-gay legislation in advance of the games.”