Several weeks after an anti-gay law passed in Russia banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” the Human Rights Campaign has sent a letter to NBC asking the network to bring this issue to light during the winter Olympic games, which are taking place in Sochi.
“Unfortunately, a dark cloud has formed over the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia,” reads the letter, addressed to NBCUniversal chief executive Steve Burke and multiple NBC executives. “The law functionally criminalizes even the most modest gesture of support for the dignity and humanity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.”
While millions of gay and lesbian Russian citizens “live in fear that their government will arrest them, simply because of who they are,” the HRC points out that the law is extremely problematic for the upcoming Olympics as well. According to analysis of the law, the HRC said, illegal activities in the country now include everything from same-sex couples holding hands, to tweeting positive messages about LGBT people and relationships. For the Olympics specifically, this will make things difficult for LGBT athletes traveling to the country, or even fans or coaches,who could be arrested for activities such as waving a rainbow flag, the letter added.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, strongly urged NBCUniversal, which has the exclusive rights to the Olypmic games, to “expose this inhumane and unjust law” during the broadcast next year.
In a statement, NBCUniversal said, “NBCUniversal strongly supports equal rights and the fair treatment for all people. The spirit of the Olympic Games is about unifying people and countries through the celebration of sport and it is our hope that spirit will prevail.” Meanwhile, NBC is scheduled to give a presentation on the Winter Games to a room full of TV critics and reporters on Saturday at the Summer TV Press Tour 2013.
Last week, the International Olympic Committee responded to complaints, and released a statement to the media that read in part, “The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation,” adding, “This legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi. As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media.”
The Russian law has incited calls for a boycott of the 2014 Olympic Games and furious response from LGBT advocates. In Sunday’s New York Times, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein wrote an op-ed stating, “Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals. So far, the world has mostly been silent.”
Read the full letter from the HRC here.
(This post has been updated.)