February 5, 2014 at 12:28 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
King drops out of U.S. delegation to Olympics
Billie Jean King, tennis, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

Billie Jean King will no longer be part of the U.S. delegation to the Olympics. (Photo by Andrew Coppa Photography)

The lesbian tennis legend whom President Obama tapped to represent the United States as part of the delegation at the upcoming Olympics won’t make the journey to Russia.

Billie Jean King announced in a statement provided to the Washington Blade that she’s unable to attend because her mother’s health is failing.

“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,” King said. “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.”

Obama had selected King, who was outed as a lesbian in 1981, to represent the United States as part of the 10-member delegation accompanying Team USA. Other openly gay members of the delegation to the Olympics are ice hockey Olympian Caitlin Cahow and figure skater Brian Boitano.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, said Obama extends his thoughts and prayers to King and her family.

“The president appreciates the willingness of Caitlin Cahow, originally named as a member of the delegation in the closing ceremonies, to instead serve as a member of the delegation for the opening ceremonies,” Inouye said. “Ms. Cahow, along with former Secretary Napolitano, Ambassador McFaul, Mr. Nabors and Mr. Boitano, will represent us well.”

Observers had seen the selection of King and other LGBT members of the delegation to the Olympics as a statement against Russia’s controversial anti-gay propaganda law. Obama, who’s expressed opposition to the law, said the composition of the delegation “speaks for itself” and wouldn’t provide additional comment about its message.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • BJK is one of my heroes. An amazing athlete and a hero to women and gays on and off the tennis court. She is the mother of Title 9 and the WTA. Women's tennis is the only sport where women can become wealthy superstars on par with men, and BJK is largely responsible for that. She and Martina Navratilova were among the earliest gay superstars and their example paved the way for other gay men and women to come out and be proud. I have the greatest respect for her.

  • I would love to hear the phone conversation between Putin and Obama that resulted in King withdrawing.

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