Former Olympian speaks on Russia’s new anti-gay laws.
Robbie Rogers, the only openly gay male athlete currently playing in the five major professional sports in the USA, has added his voice to the debate currently circulating after Russia passed anti-gay laws in June, which included fines for “propagandising of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”.
The actor, author and playwright Steven Fry recently penned an open letter to British PM David Cameron urging him to boycott the Russian Winter Olympics in Sochi. Fry cited the many reported instances of gay teenagers being forced into suicide, lesbians being “correctively” raped and “gay men and women being beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by”, and argued that “an absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential”.
Rogers, who plays for the LA Galaxy, is a former Olympian himself and has argued that a different stance could pave the way for change. He, like Fry, uses the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin as an example, when Nazi Germany’s stance towards Black people and Jews sparked heated debate over whether or not to boycott the Olympics.
But while Fry wrote that it was a mistake not to boycott the event, pointing to the boost it gave to Hitler’s confidence, Rogers argues that had the US boycotted the ’36 Olympics, the great Jesse Owens would not have had the platform to make his mark. As Rogers says “an important historical teaching moment would have been lost”.
Rogers voices his hope that the International Olympic Committee should relax the rules forbidding Olympic athletes from wearing a symbol that represents a political statement. He believes athletes at the Sochi Olympics should be encouraged to wear the symbol of gay pride (a rainbow flag), as a symbol of their support for LGBT athletes, and, just as importantly, to show solidarity for gay Russians “who are now living under the threat of arrest by a repressive regime.”
Citing a recent event in his life, Rogers describes going out to dinner in Miami with some of his Galaxy teammates, during which they peppered him with questions about his life as a gay man, curious to understand more about him. Rogers answered their many queries, and left the dinner feeling that the group had been brought closer together.
Let us hope that when the Winter Olympics does come around, it can be used as the platform which Rogers suggests, one to educate and enlighten. As one of Rogers’ teammates said whilst thanking him for his openness at dinner – “If you don’t talk and listen, you can’t learn”.