Some skaters have been asked about Russia's discriminatory policies against LGBT people and for the most part their answers are miserable. Even Johnny Weir, while reaffirming his beliefs, sort of solutioned the whole thing with "So go over there and be fabulous!" I may be selling him short.
First out of the gate was Jeremy Abbott on twitter who compared criticizing Russia's LGBT policies to insulting a host's drapes and taste in decor. Naturally one wonders if he'd have made the same analogy about Nazi Germany. Oh hey, not the choice I'd have made, but if that's how they roll over there, it's not our place to say!
Considering Abbott, one wonders if he'd have been a Jewish athlete saying that about Nazi Germany for fear if he spoke out against it, the US would boycott and he'd lose his Olympic moment. (The U.S. did not boycott the Berlin Olympics, so I don't know what Abbott is fussing about. They're not going to boycott Sochi, and if he speaks out, nobody's going to spike his Borscht. If it's courtesy that concerns him, how about courtesy towards Russian LGBT people and those that have put themselves on the line to protest and defend?) Abbott got his ass whipped for being such a pusillanimous little punk, but he can relax now, he has company among his teammates.
Then there's Lysacek who punted it to the IOC. He's not wrong - it's the IOC that needs to loudly clarify and reaffirm its position and policies, and it's the IOC that needs to acknowledge that the Olympic athletes are being asked to address it. In the artificial construct that is eligible Olympic athletics, the IOC is the parent.
The IOC needs to acknowledge there's a situation and recognize it publicly and address it more proactively than they've done to date. It needs to make a clear statement that the athletes can strongly get behind without looking as if they're passing the buck, which is how Lysacek looks, and how most of them look. Not all of them. Most of them.
I don't want to do much defending of the athletes. I know they lead circumscribed lives with a narrow focus and I know the Olympics means everything to them but give me a fucking break already. If you are intelligent - and certainly not all of them are - you don't need to study political science for years in order to formulate a position on discrimination. You know what that is if you dropped out in grade school. They all act scared to touch it.
Charlie White and Meryl Davis's response sucked so much I hope with all my heart neither Scott nor Tessa address this issue. White and Davis are two INCREDIBLY privileged people who answered like this:
“I don’t think we can speak because we haven’t really talked about between the two of us very much,’’ White said.That's pretty damn close to keeping your mouth shut about the drapes, Charlie White and Meryl Davis. You can't criticize the host. (Again, Nazi Germany hosted the Olympics - would White think the same about that? Jews schmews, it's all semantics.).
“I don’t think the Olympics is really the right place for an athlete to make a political statement,” Davis said.
Asked if this was not a political issue but a human rights issue, White said, “Unfortunately, it’s semantics. To Russia, it is a political statement. And they are the host country. I think that is probably all we will say on the subject.”
What kind of reasoning is that? To Russia, it's politics, so to Charlie it's politics? To Russia, it's important to discriminate against LGBT people, too. Is Charlie deferring to official Russia there as well? When in Rome.
It's not semantics. Human rights isn't fucking politics, Charlie and Meryl.
They don't want to give offense, that's what it's about. They don't want to "offend" official Russia. Maybe they don't want to offend Kelloggs. Yep, don't criticize human rights abuses, you might offend someone in power (or someone who will sponsor you) who supports those abuses. It's such a tricky line to walk.
In this situation, Russia is hosting the Olympics in accordance with IOC policies. The IOC has clear anti-discrimination policies, including against LGBT persons. These skaters have been media trained within an inch of their lives and they can't re-affirm that? They can't say that they condemn Russia's discriminatory policies and practices against LGBT persons, but it's in conflict with the IOC's own position, and the IOC governs how the Olympics are conducted, and how everyone connected with the Olympics are treated, and Russia agreed to abide by IOC policy when they were awarded Sochi?
That's a basic diplomatic turn it around, how hard is it? How hard is it to say they're aware these policies are no reflection of the attitudes held by many Russian athletes and much of the citizenry, including the citizens of Sochi, many many of whom deplore these practices as well?
Why doesn't the IOC, and the North American Federations - Skate Canada and the USFSA - get out in front so the athletes can get behind it. Instead the athletes are coming off enabling and mealy mouthed, appeasing, and frankly, creepy. Yeah, I'm human rights positive and everything but you gotta understand, my whole life is this skating stuff so you know, not really my problem.
It's not POLITICS, Meryl, but this is a woman who was famously (in my head it was famous) puzzled on twitter when Detroit was named the worst place to live in the United States. What about Ann Arbor?
By the way, here's Bode Miller:
"I think it's so embarrassing that there's countries and people who are that ignorant. … As a human being, I think it's embarrassing,"That's more like it. There, he's standing with some of the athletes who have made scathing comments against discrimination while playing the notoriously LGBT-friendly game of football. If I were figure skating I'd be fucking embarrassed that football has a better track record of speaking out against LGBT discrimination, but maybe if they thought the Super Bowl was at stake some of those who have been outspoken would have reconsidered, I don't know.
Here's what bugs. What if Russia were, out loud, proclaiming, legislating, institutionalizing, making no bones, discriminating against Jews? Declaring it was going to arrest people who made a point of their Jewishness, who showed they were Jewish, who acted Jewish (in how they dressed or prayed in public, for example). What if it were aggressively discriminating against women - arresting women? Pick another category of humanity.
The creepy part is it's gayness, so it's "different" and it's okay to hedge. These athletes are acting like gayness policies are cultural. Was Nazi Germany cultural? Are some of the policies against women in the middle east and elsewhere cultural? Drapes and decor?
Athletes are not being asked to solve the issue. I think the athletes are asked their opinion vis a vis Russia's discrimination against LGBT persons. I think what is turning so many people off when they read what the athletes say is that many of the athletes who are equivocating appear to be doing so because they're afraid if they come out against LGBT discrimination they'll cause offense somewhere among people who support LGBT discrimination. Better not take sides. Fair to both.
I know they feel all hot potato and uncomfortable. In that case, don't comment. These people sound like they don't give a fuck, just please God, don't give the US or Canada ideas about boycotting Sochi!
Canada and the US won't boycott the fucking Sochi Olympics. If the USFSA and Skate Canada have told its athletes to say nothing, then the athletes should say nothing, and Skate Canada and USFSA should say something that represents them. Not point to the policy book - SAY something. Don't act so freaking terrified of the topic. Pull the stick out. Act human. The IOC should as well.
However, I don't think the Federations or the IOC have told the athletes to say nothing, because the athletes are saying stuff. So why is THIS what they're saying? What the hell are they scared of? Are Meryl and Charlie afraid of rocking the boat with Kelloggs? Neither one of them hesitates to tweet when they're chomping on a Nutrigrain. What's next - instagrams of Fiber Plus in their intestines?
Are the skaters afraid the US or Canada will boycott?
Is "figure skating" at large leery of turning off close-minded parents who will keep their sons from skating because they don't want their kids to be thought gay or turned gay, and speaking out against Russia's policies will just affirm that skating is gay? That's historically how cultures have handled discrimination, right? That's how change is effected. Wait til the scared and prejudiced people are comfortable - wait til the military is comfortable! Wait til this or that state's citizens gets used to having African Americans in the same restaurant.
What the hell do these self-styled role models think a role model is? Well, I already know - a sanitized smiley cipher that can lend its image to a corporate sponsor.
No comment is better than trivializing this and sounding like complete collaborators. There's the old saw about the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good [people] to do nothing. I don't expect the athletes to DO anything, but words are also actions. They're not responsible for this, how it's handled isn't their call, but PLEASE stop fucking acting like a fucking weasel. Shut the fuck up and just let Ashley Wagner and Bode Miller talk.