As political commentators continue to read meaning into his choice, President Obama said Friday the selection of the U.S. delegation to the Olympics — which includes three openly gay athletes — “speaks for itself” in terms of the message.
At his end-of-the-year news conference, Obama refused to explicitly ascribe a message to the delegation after Bloomberg’s Phil Mattingly asked the president about his decision to skip the Olympics and the composition of the 10-member delegation.
“I think the delegation speaks for itself,” Obama said. “You’ve got outstanding Americans, outstanding athletes, people who will represent us extraordinarily well.”
Still, Obama took particular note of two of the openly gay members of the delegation — lesbian tennis legend Billie Jean King and figure skater Brian Boitana — saying they’re fantastic representatives of the United States.
“And, you know, the fact that we’ve got folks like Billie Jean King or Brian Boitano, who themselves have been world-class athletes that everybody acknowledges for their excellence but also for their character, who also happen to be members of the LGBT community, you should take that for what it’s worth, that when it comes to the Olympics and athletic performance we don’t make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation,” Obama said. “We judge people on how they perform, both on the court and off the court, on the field and off the field. And that’s a value that I think is at the heart of not just America but American sports.”
In addition to Boitano and King, ice hockey champion Caitlin Cahow, a lesbian, was named to the delegation. Cahow and King were known as members of the LGBT community prior to their selection, but Boitano affirmed he’s gay later in a statement after he was named.
On his own decision to skip the Olympics, Obama noted that he’s never attended the games, but predicted that may change in the future.
“I haven’t attended Olympics in the past and I suspect that, you know — you know, me attending Olympics, particularly at a time when we’ve got all the other stuff that people have been talking about, is going to be tough, although I would love to do it,” Obama said. “I’ll be going to a lot of Olympic Games post-presidency.”
Although Obama himself has never attended the Olympics, first lady Michelle Obama represented the United States in 2012 during the Olympics in London and Vice President Joseph Biden led the U.S. delegation in 2010 for the games in Vancouver. However, no member of the Obama or Biden family was chosen to attend the games.