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Winter Olympic Sports Federations Oppose Discrimination, So Why Aren’t They Speaking Up?

There has been a growing amount of discussion of how the Olympics may or may not be affected by the anti-LGBT laws enacted in Russia, a year before the Sochi Winter Olympic games. Should there be a boycott, to call attention to these laws and the plight of Russians who are affected by them? Would it be better to attend, compete, and (a la Jesse Owens in Berlin or John Carlos in Mexico City) use the games to make a political statement about equality and justice? (See Dave Zirin here.) Activists argue over the right strategic approach, and athletes argue about whether this would make them into pawns.

Wrestling coach Charley Sullivan described himself like this in a piece at OutSports:

I’m a college coach who has sent athletes to each of the past three summer Olympic Games, and has two actively training for the next quadrenium. I’m also a doctoral candidate in history, writing a dissertation on gender, sexuality, autocratic states and mass violence in the 20th century. And I’m an openly gay Quaker with a strong set of values about social justice.

He puts those values and that experience to good use, with a very thought-provoking piece. He is well aware of the power dynamics involved in the Olympics, from the team level to the international. One part of his writing stood out very strongly to me:

In sports where selection can be political, or where team chemistry is important, however, athletes are often loathe to make themselves an issue. Many gay, lesbian and bisexual elite athletes will, understandably, therefore, choose to just keep quiet when their own “issue” gets increasingly hot. Instead of asking the national team coaches, high performance managers and executive directors what might (or might not) be transpiring, they will keep their heads down and keep training. Too much is at stake.

That critical voices in the discussions about potential boycott of Sochi—those of gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes aiming to compete there—will be largely absent from the debate should not be surprising then. In general, the outspoken voices will either be gay activists who may have little knowledge of elite athletics, or straight athletes and officials who may have scant knowledge of LGBT issues.

It is vital, therefore, that US sport leaders—the USOC and the heads of the eight winter sport national federations (Biathlon, Bobsled and Skeleton, Curling, Figure Skating, Hockey, Luge, Ski and Snowboard, and Speedskating)—take a forthright stand on principal.

Now. So that athletes can worry about training.

That makes a lot of sense. Sadly, we’ve gotten *crickets* from them.

But Sullivan’s piece made me wonder just who these folks are and what they believe.

René Fasel is a former hockey player and referee, who moved on into dentistry as well as becoming the head of the International Ice Hockey Federation [IIHF]. Now Fasel serves as the head of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF), and also as a member of the Executive Committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). I got to thinking: what does the IIHF have to say about discrimination, equality, and justice in their bylaws?

Here’s the answer, from the preamble to the IIHF Statutes and Bylaws [pdf]:

The International Ice Hockey Federation is dedicated to the worldwide growth and development of ice hockey and In-line hockey, providing exemplary leadership and governance by diligently observing the principles of democracy, fairness, solidarity and transparency for its Member National Associations . . .
Every ice hockey player in Member National Associations of the International Ice Hockey Federation has the right to participate in a safe, positive and enjoyable environment and to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness in the process. The International Ice Hockey Federation and each of its Member National Associations do not accept and will not tolerate harassment, abuse or violence in any of its many forms, and particularly where people in positions of responsibility unfairly exercise their power and authority over others.

That’s pretty strong language. Too bad it’s in conflict with the new laws of Russia as signed by President Putin relating to LGBTs, or those of any sexual orientation who want to stand up for them. It’s certainly in conflict with the vigilante beatings and assaults that are apparently going unpunished.

And what about those other winter sports federations? [cont’d]

CommunityMy FDL

Winter Olympic Sports Federations Oppose Discrimination, So Why Aren’t They Speaking Up?

There has been a growing amount of discussion of how the Olympics may or may not be affected by the anti-LGBT laws enacted in Russia, a year before the Sochi Winter Olympic games. Should there be a boycott, to call attention to these laws and the plight of Russians who are affected by them? Would it be better to attend, compete, and (a la Jesse Owens in Berlin or John Carlos in Mexico City) use the games to make a political statement about equality and justice? (See Dave Zirin here.) Activists argue over the right strategic approach, and athletes argue about whether this would make them into pawns.

Wrestling coach Charley Sullivan described himself like this in a piece at OutSports:

I’m a college coach who has sent athletes to each of the past three summer Olympic Games, and has two actively training for the next quadrenium. I’m also a doctoral candidate in history, writing a dissertation on gender, sexuality, autocratic states and mass violence in the 20th century. And I’m an openly gay Quaker with a strong set of values about social justice.

He puts those values and that experience to good use, with a very thought-provoking piece. He is well aware of the power dynamics involved in the Olympics, from the team level to the international. One part of his writing stood out very strongly to me:

In sports where selection can be political, or where team chemistry is important, however, athletes are often loathe to make themselves an issue. Many gay, lesbian and bisexual elite athletes will, understandably, therefore, choose to just keep quiet when their own “issue” gets increasingly hot. Instead of asking the national team coaches, high performance managers and executive directors what might (or might not) be transpiring, they will keep their heads down and keep training. Too much is at stake.

That critical voices in the discussions about potential boycott of Sochi—those of gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes aiming to compete there—will be largely absent from the debate should not be surprising then. In general, the outspoken voices will either be gay activists who may have little knowledge of elite athletics, or straight athletes and officials who may have scant knowledge of LGBT issues.

It is vital, therefore, that US sport leaders—the USOC and the heads of the eight winter sport national federations (Biathlon, Bobsled and Skeleton, Curling, Figure Skating, Hockey, Luge, Ski and Snowboard, and Speedskating)—take a forthright stand on principal.

Now. So that athletes can worry about training.

That makes a lot of sense. Sadly, we’ve gotten *crickets* from them.

But Sullivan’s piece made me wonder just who these folks are and what they believe.

René Fasel is a former hockey player and referee, who moved on into dentistry as well as becoming the head of the International Ice Hockey Federation [IIHF]. Now Fasel serves as the head of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF), and also as a member of the Executive Committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). I got to thinking: what does the IIHF have to say about discrimination, equality, and justice in their bylaws?

Here’s the answer, from the preamble to the IIHF Statutes and Bylaws [pdf]:

The International Ice Hockey Federation is dedicated to the worldwide growth and development of ice hockey and In-line hockey, providing exemplary leadership and governance by diligently observing the principles of democracy, fairness, solidarity and transparency for its Member National Associations . . .
Every ice hockey player in Member National Associations of the International Ice Hockey Federation has the right to participate in a safe, positive and enjoyable environment and to be treated with respect, dignity and fairness in the process. The International Ice Hockey Federation and each of its Member National Associations do not accept and will not tolerate harassment, abuse or violence in any of its many forms, and particularly where people in positions of responsibility unfairly exercise their power and authority over others.

That’s pretty strong language. Too bad it’s in conflict with the new laws of Russia as signed by President Putin relating to LGBTs, or those of any sexual orientation who want to stand up for them. It’s certainly in conflict with the vigilante beatings and assaults that are apparently going unpunished.

And what about those other winter sports federations?

(more…)

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Peterr

Peterr

I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.