Marking International Human Rights Day, both basketball-player Jason Collins and tennis champion Martina Navratilova spoke out yesterday at the United Nations.
They said that the International Olympic Commitee (IOC) had not done enough ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics to defend the rights of gay athletes, and also that emphasis should also be placed on the rights of ordinary gay Russians, in light of the recent anti-gay propaganda laws passed last June.
Both sports stars are openly gay, and Navratilova expressed her disappointment at the IOC for effectively “putting really their head in the sand”.
“The IOC need to stand up better for their athletes, quite frankly”, she added, and said that the concerns should not only be around the Olympics, but what happens after. “nobody is talking about for example Qatar, where the World Cup is going to be, homosexual activity is punishable by a jail term there”.
Collins stated that the IOC and FIFA should be more careful what countries they associated their brands with.
“Do you choose to associate with a country or a people or a government that will oppress and put down their own people? You should choose to associate with people who stand for the same ideals that you stand for, which should celebrate sport and athletes to be their true selves”, he added.
According to the United Nations New Centre, Navratilova also stated:
“Gays and lesbians seem to be the last group of people that it’s still ok to pick on for whatever reason in whatever way,” and she added that the abuse ranges from being bullied in school to being denied basic rights, incarcerated or sentenced for acts punishable by death in certain countries.
Navratilova also drew attention to the fact that in the US, 29 states could still fire someone for being gay. She said that although things were going in the right direction, they still had some way to go for full equality.