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Billie Jean King to gay Russians: ‘You are not alone’

December 19th, 2013
03:02 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Billie Jean King told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview on Thursday that rather than boycott the Winter Olympics in Russia over gay issues, perhaps athletes and representatives should engage in civil disobedience.

“Maybe we should wave rainbow flags or something, I don’t know,” she said, drawing an analogy to the Black Power salute – a raised fist – given by two American athletes at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

“As long as we’re not being malicious,” she said, “we can show our feelings.”

President Obama named the former tennis champion, who is gay, to the American delegation at the Olympics earlier this week.

“I'm very proud to go as an athlete, and as a gay woman,” she said. “I'm thrilled.”

Russia’s hosting of the Olympics has been surrounded by controversy in large measure because of a law enacted earlier this year banning gay “propaganda,” which has contributed to many gay Russians fleeing the country.

“I'm not real big on boycotting,” King told Amanpour. “It has to be absolutely a last resort.”

“I think it's more important to go and be there, and be involved, and be committed to trying to help change – and trying to let people also know if you're gay that you're not alone.”

President Obama himself will not attend the Games; it is the first time in more than a decade that the President, Vice President, First Lady or former president hasn’t attended an Olympic opening or closing ceremony.

King said if the anti-gay law was the reason for the President’s non-attendance he should “go ahead and say it,” but added – with tongue in cheek – that he was “sending a ‘King’ instead of a president.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a press conference Thursday, knocked down criticism over the law as “Western values.”

“What is important is to defend our society from…values which are received in a difficult way by our citizens,” President Putin said.

“When he says that, I feel like, ‘What are you, in the 18th century, 19th century or what?,” King said. “I think our values are excellent…They're creating laws that are just very intolerant to others.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post said that it was the first time in more than a decade that an American president has not attended the Olympic Games. In fact, it is the first time in more than a decade the President, Vice President, First Lady or former president hasn’t attended an Olympic opening or closing ceremony.


Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Gay Rights • Latest Episode
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Anon

    As a gay man, I support protesting for our rights in general, but not in this instance. The spirit of the Olympics is to put aside politics and celebrate achievement. The best thing gay athletes can do for the cause in my eyes is to proudly bring home the gold.

    December 19, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Reply
  2. Pandora

    Comparing the show of black power to rainbow ? Seriously, bunch of proud and brave virile men/women standing up against racial discrimination cannot be equated to a bunch of mentally imbalanced, effeminate, morally bankrupt perverts who cannot distinguish between moral and amoral.

    December 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm | Reply
    • keith royle

      do you mean a bunch of militant would be crack heads without morals or parenting skills

      December 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  3. Berg

    We will not send any highly ranking American to Sochi so said the USA
    Now they decided to send PIGS and MAGGOTS.
    Mr USA please send those animals to MUGABE.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:46 am | Reply
    • Jesus

      Mr Berg, Go fark yourself.

      December 20, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  4. M Alexander

    I have heard many reasons why the west and sympathetic countries around the world who have committed themselves to attending the sochi winter olympics – why they should boycott these games since Putin and his Russia have passed such unpalatible laws conerning the LGBT community.

    In this regard, I think not only SHOULD these countries, those who do have legislation which protects the LGBT community and the rights they have as citizens – as Human beings – they must compete but... not take part in any ceremonies, the opening, the medals presenations nor the closing ceremonies – we must show our disdain for these laws, compete – win – leave!

    I would hope that the heads of state of the countries who opt out of the grandiose side of these games would offer to present the medals to their athletes and accord them their time in the spotlight while also being in the right side of history – leave Putin to his opening ceremonies with just a handful of countries – he'd hate that ultimate snub – nothing less than he deserves!

    M Alexander

    December 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  5. rockyFjord

    before getting all steamed up, maybe Billie Jean should read the Russian law, which relates to proselytizing minors into the gay lifestyle. I know lesbians and gays like to turn them while they are young, but Russia's parents say you shall not do that to their kids. Sorry if you will miss out on some gay pedophilia fun!

    December 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
    • Verbal Voley

      Say WHAT?! How far behind in the twentieth century are you? You don't sit your son or daugfhter at the kitchen table at X years of age and say, "So...Are you going to be gay or straight...Tell me now?". It is all a simple matter of genetics. No one CHOOSES to be who or what they are. The sooner the minority realizes that the better for the country and the world. You are who and what you are, and may God bless you for whatever side you should happen to come down upon at BIRTH.

      December 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  6. Pleaseignoreme

    Hey hey hey, your countries pay for you to compete on behalf of the nation. YOU SHOULD BE WAVING YR COUNTRY'S FLAG PERIOD!

    December 21, 2013 at 1:46 am | Reply
  7. Richard

    You are absolutely right, get politics out of the Olympics and keep it out. Some of these athletes have trained for 4 or more years just for this one moment. Don't spoil it for them. Yes, we root for our country to win as do citizens from other countries root for their team. But we all enjoy the games, win or lose.

    December 21, 2013 at 7:02 am | Reply
  8. kovilovo

    Guys are just sick !

    December 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Reply
  9. arun kottur

    Mam please blink at India

    December 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm | Reply

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