On Tuesday, American middle distance runner Nick Symmonds won silver in the 800-meter at the World Athletic Championship at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
Then he won our hearts and minds when he dedicated his win to his LGBT friends as he had promised a week earlier.
“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” Symmonds said at the stadium on Russian soil, referring to the Russian law making it a crime to support gay causes signed by President Vladimir Putin in June. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”
Symmonds previously had said, in an August 6 blog post on Runner’s world:
If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union… I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation. Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend’s house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.
Since the law became an international lightening rod, few prominent Olympic level athletes have spoken publicly about it, perhaps fearing arrest, reprisals at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics or a boycott that would deprive them the ability to compete (and cash in on endorsements). (With the exception of the great Johnny Weir, of course.) The International Olympic Committee has been equally unhelpful, practically siding with the Russian government.
But now Symmonds has broken down another barrier, apparently risking arrest under Russia’s “gay propaganda” rule.
Let’s see if his solo voice can become a chorus of condemnation.