Tennis legend Billie Jean King, two days after being selected as part of the US delegation to attend the Sochi Winter Olympics, has spoken out in support of gay people in Russia.
Speaking on CNN’s Amanpour programme, King, who is openly gay, urged LGBT rights advocates to wave flags in Sochi, in order to peacefully show support.
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday named the gay sports stars as part of America’s delegation to the Winter Olympics in Russia – but in a significant move confirmed that he will not be attending the event himself. February will be the first time since 2000 that the US has not sent a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Olympics.
On whether people should support a boycott of the Sochi games, King said: “I’m not real big on boycotting. It has to be absolutely a last resort. I think it’s more important to go and be there, and be involved, and be committed to trying to help change – and trying to let people also know if you’re gay that you’re not alone.”
She also said she was confident that Obama was not attending because of the law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin which bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors.
“I think it’s… President Obama feels this, but go ahead and say it, but I think he’s sending a King instead of a president over there. I’m very happy to do whatever,” she continued.
Going on, King commented on criticism of the law as simply pushing “western values”, questioning why such values would be a bad thing.
“When he says that, I feel like, ‘What are you, in the 18th century, 19th century or what? I think our values are excellent…They’re creating laws that are just very intolerant to others,” she said.
Brian Boitano, 1988 gold medal-winning figure skater, yesterday came out as gay. He will join King and ice hockey medal-winner Caitlin Cahow, in the delegation to the Winter Olympics in February.