Billie Jean King will not attend Opening Ceremonies in Sochi


In this Aug. 12, 2009 file photo, tennis great Billie Jean King reacts as she enters the East Room of the White House in Washington, for a ceremony where President Barack Obama awarded her a 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Tennis great Billie Jean King will not attend Friday’s Opening Ceremonies in Sochi because her mother is in failing health. King and two-time Olympic hockey player Caitlin Cahow were named to the U.S. delegation in December in a move thought to be partly a reaction to Russia’s anti-gay laws; both King and Cahow are openly gay. At the time the delegation was announced, the White House did not mention Russia’s laws specifically but instead stressed U.S. “diversity.” For the first time since 2000, the United States delegation to the Olympics will not include the president, vice-president or first lady.

In a statement released by her publicist, King said, “With my mother in failing health, I will not be able to join the U.S. Presidential Delegation at this week’s opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics.  It is important for me to be with my mother and my brother at this difficult time.  I want to thank President Obama for including me in this historic mission and I look forward to supporting our athletes as they compete in Sochi.”

The White House announced that the presidential Opening Ceremony delegation will consist of the following: Cahow, University of California President Janet A. Napolitano, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation Michael A. McFaul, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy  Robert L. Nabors, and Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian A. Boitano.

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