President Obama said categorically during a news conference on Friday he opposes a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia over the country’s anti-propaganda law.
“I want to just make very clear right now, I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics,” Obama said. “We’ve got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed.”
In the lieu of a boycott, Obama suggested a better way to protest the Russian law — which criminalizes making pro-LGBT statements to minors — is gay athletes winning medals at the Sochi games.
“And one of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there,” Obama said. “And if Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker.”
Obama made the remarks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in response a question from the Associated Press’ Julie Pace about the state of the relationship between the United States and Russia. Earlier this week, the White House had announced that it had canceled a bilateral meeting between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Initially in his remarks, Obama identified “human rights issues” as a reason why he decided to cancel the meeting without specifically mentioning the law but later enumerated his opposition to it by saying no one is “more offended than me” about the measure.
“Nobody’s more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia, but as I said just this week, I’ve spoken out against that not just with respect to Russia, but a number of other countries where we continue to do work with them, but we have a strong disagreement on this issue,” Obama said.
Andre Banks, executive director of the LGBT international grassroots group All Out, said Obama struck the right chord on the anti-gay law during the news conference.
“We appreciate President Obama’s strong words opposing Russia’s anti-gay laws and his willingness to speak out against governments that force people to sacrifice their family and sometimes their freedom because of who they are or who they love,” Banks said. “All Out continues to believe that the 2014 Olympic Games are a perfect opportunity to speak out, rather than walk out. We call on the International Olympic Committee, Olympians, fans, and other governments to follow President Obama’s lead and go public to demand an end to the anti-gay laws.”