Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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Lesbian and Gay Rights activists take part in a demonstration aimed to coincide with the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, against laws aimed at stifling Gay Rights in Russia, opposite Downing Street in London, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. In London, about 150 people rallying outside Prime Minister David Cameron's office in London urged McDonald's and the IOC's other sponsors to speak out. The activists there said they plan to deliver a petition signed by more than 100,000 people to a nearby McDonald's restaurant.
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
A gay rights activist holds a banner in front of a large clock showing the number of days left until the start of the Olympic games as police officers approach, left, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Russian gay rights activists protested the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. Two activists unfurled banners reading “Berlin 1936 = Sochi 2014,” referring to the Olympic Games that were held in the capital of Nazi Germany. One-man pickets are legal in Russia and the two activists holding signs were spaced far enough apart that neither was arrested.
AP Photo/Elena Ignatyeva
Billie Jean King will not be at Olympic opening
NEW YORK — Billie Jean King will not attend Friday’s opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics in Russia because her mother is ill.
King, who was selected to help lead the U.S. delegation to the Games, has been outspoken in her opposition to Russia’s anti-gay law.
The White House announced Wednesday that former U.S. hockey player Caitlin Cahow will take King’s place.
Betty Moffitt, her 91-year-old mother, lives in Arizona and has been ill for some time. King will be joined by her brother Randy Moffitt, a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.
To date, the IOC and its top sponsors — who pay millions for the rights to use Olympic symbols in television commercials and other marketing — have expressed general opposition to discrimination and pledged to ensure that people gathering for the Sochi Olympics wouldn't be affected by the law.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Wednesday the committee and the sponsors have been in constant communication about several issues in Russia, but he declined to describe the conversations when asked whether the sponsors wanted the IOC to make a specific statement about the law.
A coalition of 40 international groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, sent an open letter to the 10 top sponsors last week urging them to run ads promoting equality for LGBT people.
Human Rights Watch posted a video this week on YouTube of gay people in Russia being bullied, chased and beaten, compiled from footage the group said was uploaded by perpetrators. The video got more than 830,000 views in less than two days.
Aside from AT&T, DeVry University and Chobani, sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Committee who were contacted by The Associated Press shied away from explicit condemnations of the Russian law, while expressing support for diversity and opposition to discrimination. These sponsors included TD Ameritrade, Kellogg Co., United Airlines, BP PLC, Nike Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Hilton Worldwide.
"Our sponsorship of the USOC is about supporting Team USA, not engaging in political or policy debates," said Scott Dean, a BP spokesman.
The Russian law "is unaffiliated with our ongoing support of the Olympic movement," said Hilton Worldwide. "Our mission is to help athletes on their journey...fostering and promoting the values and spirit of the Olympics amongst our guests and members."
Citigroup cited its "longstanding support" for LGBT rights, and added that it backed the USOC's "ongoing efforts" to address the issue with the IOC.