In response to anti-LGBT policies of the Russian government, members of the group Queer Nation NY and RUSA LGBT took to the streets in Times Square in New York City to make themselves heard. They poured bottles of Coca Cola in to the sewers and demanded that Coke pull its sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. “By sponsoring the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Coca-Cola is associating its brands with state-sanctioned gay-bashing,” Queer Nation cofounder Alan Klein stated. “Coca-Cola is sacrificing the safety and security of Russian LGBT people for profit—a position that opposes fundamental Olympic principles, runs counter to the International Olympic Committee charter, and that will tarnish its global image for decades to come.” In addition to its demand that Coke pull its sponsorship, Queer Nation also made other demands including:
- Releasing a statement in English and Russian that condemns workplace discrimination, harassment, and bullying directed at customers and employees based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Conducting periodic company-wide sensitivity trainings about its LGBT employment policies worldwide.
There were other demands concerning workplace policies along these same lines.
While it’s difficult not to be sympathetic to their demands, there are men and women, straight and gay that have been training their entire lives for the Olympics. Why don’t we ask the athletes what they think? Protesting is very legitimate way of bringing this issue to the minds of people. But the Russian people themselves have to be willing to fight such discrimination. This fight cannot be won in the US by a few protestors. Attitudes must changes. The reason 13 states and the District of Columbia now allow gay marriage is because people no longer views gays as abhorrent. It no longer carries with it the stigma it once did. But that is not yet the case in Russia. They have a very different culture than the western world. The same can be said of all the Arab nations and yet every major business in the US with International ties does business there. Where are the protests about that?
As a lifetime athlete, what I do know is there is no better diplomacy than sports. Bringing people together from almost every country on earth to meet each other and to compete in athletic competition is what the Olympics are all about. The athletes who wish to, should make a statement if they so choose but boycotting the games is absolutely the wrong approach and should not even be considered. Politics has no place in sports. The greatest punishment Hitler ever endured was watching Jesse Owens run away from all of his Aryan athletes. The supposed superior master race was brought to its knees. What better statement could be made than that?