Johnny Weir Opposes Russian Olympic Boycott, Encourages LGBT Athletes To Do The Same

johnny-weir-roommates-belbinjpg-cdbdf62856cc9288Next year’s Winter Olympics are set to be held in the Earth’s den of inequality—Sochi, Russia, to be exact—but that’s not stopping a few powerful gay athletes from voicing opposition to a suggested boycott of the Games.

Though his outward flamboyancy could land him in a Russian prison under a new Russian law that forbids tourists from showing “gay propaganda,” 29-year-old Johnny Weir refuses to hang up his figure skates in the face of bigotry. The decorated Olympian announced this week that he plans to compete next year.

‘The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority and violating Human Rights all over the place is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions,” he said, “but I still will compete.”

He noted that the last time an Olympic boycott was organized during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, the only people affected were athletes that were denied the opportunity to compete. “I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof,” he added.

Weir is also encouraging other athletes, both gay and straight, to compete in next year’s Games, and asks fans to “support the athletes”:

“I beg the gay athletes not to forget their missions and fight for a chance to dazzle the world. I pray that people will believe in the Olympic movement no matter where the event is being held, because the Olympics are history, and they do not represent their host, they represent the entire world.”

Also on board to compete is openly gay Kiwi speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who says he will be wearing a rainbow pin while in Sochi. “For me it’s less about taking a stand and more about just being myself,” he said. “I have no interest in going back into the closet in Sochi…this is not about defiance. This is me standing up for what I believe in.”

After coming out in 2010, Skjellerup says he’s taking this opportunity to become a role model for the community. “If that gets me in trouble,” he said, “then so be it.”

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  • BrianMc

    Easy for him to say since he would have security and media coverage while in Russia 24/7!!!! Russia should not earn an extra dime while they have laws like this. Really bad for a gay person to spend any money their.

  • 2eo

    @BrianMc: Yup, Weir has really let us all down. It really is a matter of condoning murder and brutality. The only reason he won’t is selfish reasons.

    Not an actual care for humanity when it comes down to the actual crunch.

  • tardis

    I’m with Weir on this one. While a boycott is certainly an admirable notion, I doubt it’ll have a noticeable impact, unless every athlete and spectator unified in opposition. After all, strength in numbers.

    I’m curious to see how LGBT athletes, allies and Russia in general is going to handle players that have moments of outspokenness, stated outright or through subtleness, like wearing a pin. If the world will be watching the Olympics in one the world’s anti-gay places, maybe having gay athletes and allies interact in this hostile environment could make a symbolic gesture for Russia and the world.

    I understand athletes who want to play. It’s not these players fault that the Olympic committee chose a place that’s contrary to what these games represent. Although it’s understandable why a boycott is necessary, them to boycott is quite unfair.

    In any case, I guess the world will be watching.

  • BigWoody

    Even though I have been an avid Olympics fan, I won’t be watching this year.

  • BigWoody

    Oops! ‘next year’

  • Larkin

    I think it’s quite damaging to the athletes who’ve trained for years and spent untold thousands of dollars with the goal of getting to the olympics.

    To flush that down the drain over their anti-lgbtq policies and laws… I’m not sure what to think, but I doubt a boycott will do any good and will only harm the athletes competing.

    I’d much rather see them go and compete and violate the propaganda law and get arrested for gay propaganda, which actually would spark world outrage.

    I’d love to see an athlete winning and wearing anything gay-pride while receiving their medals in an ultimate ‘F-U’ to the russians which would make a much bigger statement that any potential boycott could ever make.

  • Daniel-Reader

    Stoli is Russian vodka. Why does Queerty (aka GayCities) have Stoli ads?

  • mikehipp

    I wouldn’t presume to tell a young athlete that has worked her/his whole life that they shouldn’t participate in the olympics because the host country has a jerkwad for a leader. However, I feel 100% at peace with myself when I say that I won’t watch or support said games in any way and I will encourage all my friends and allies that aren’t olympians to do the same.

  • Rev_Jeff

    So Stoli is loudly outspoken over their distaste of the Russian politics and they are making it clear that they support the LGBTQ community. I have to think that it is important for the gay athletes to show their face in the competition. Boycotting would likely not do much. It also seems to me that Russians like a good fight and so do I. I’d rather be represented than not. Let’s put Weir and the other queers in their land and hope they kick the Russian asses.

  • the other Greg

    Jesse Owens’ victory in the notorious 1936 Berlin Olympics is practically the only thing anyone remembers about that event now. Suppose he’d decided to boycott it.

    Another factor is that most of the 2014 pro-boycott forces in the US so far are right-wingers who want a boycott for entirely different reasons.

    I kind of hate the Olympics and can’t stand to watch the jingoistic, mawkish back-story coverage on NBC in recent years. But even I can see Weir’s point.

  • ChiChi Man

    It amazes me that people say things like “oh, a boycott won’t work”. You know what that sound is? Corporate brainwashing. Of course, not every boycott will work. But does it really make sense to give up without trying and hope for the best? What about doing something for one’s conscience?

    As for Johnny Weir, I’m disgusted, but not surprised. He’s gotten many a free pass from queer sites for being fabulous, but he does very little for the LGBT community. Why should he be taken seriously as a spokesperson for anything other than glitter?

    Everyone has to do what he or she feels is right. But personally, I can’t take a sip of Stoli or any Russian brands without thinking of that boy on his knees weeping in humiliation. I will not watch all those hard working Olympians (with corporate endorsements) compete for medals while thousands if not millions of average LGBT Russians live in fear of imprisonment, torture and/or death. For me, Russia is in the Jamaica pile until further notice.

  • kevininbuffalo

    @the other Greg: I thought of Jesse Owens too, Hitler stormed out of the stadium after Owens won.
    Johnny Weir is a life long Russophile and I’m sure that’s a factor in his position. I’m a fan of Johnny but I find myself torn on this. If they don’t boycott I hope the Gay athletes kick some Russian ass!

  • Red Meat

    What needs to happen is ALL out gay athletes and straight Allies wear pride colors. That would teach them a lesson. I would love to see their faces.

  • Merv

    This guy is so in love with Russia that it’s impossible for him to be objective. Did he also repeat his advice to gay athletes to “tone it down” and not to have sex in the metro station? Imagine the sh*tstorm if that statement had come from any straight person.

  • rjnick

    A boycott wouldn’t work — all it would do is make Putin look better in the eyes of the Russian people. For one, he’d use it as a propaganda tool to show that the West is trying to push Russia around and tell it what to do. For another, if the US pulled out, Russia would top the medal table, another victory for Putin.

    Also, it’s easy to judge someone like Weir because an Olympic boycott it requires absolutely zero effort or sacrifice on your part. Sacrifice is easy when it’s other people that have to make it. And Weir, and for that matter Skellerjup, are both right – most of these athletes have trained their whole lives for this and it’s not their fault that the games are in Russia. And to cavalierly demand that they just give that all up for a political agenda – and then to criticize them for not doing so – is incredibly unfair. And what it does it proves Weir’s point that the people who will suffer most are the athletes themselves, a lot of whom, it’s worth nothing, are just high school and college kids.

    It’s bad enough that Russia has decided to bully gay Russians, I don’t see the point in bullying young American athletes in response. Going to the Games and defying the ban is much more productive. Carry rainbow flags at the opening ceremony, something that would prompt NBC to talk about it and draw attention to it. Beat Russia on the ice and snow. That’s the way to damage Putin’s pride and deny him the Russian triumph he wants these Games to be. Picking up your toys and just going home is not how you win an argument or a fight. There is no PR that you’d get from a boycott that would come anywhere near the US beating Russia in hockey on home ice.

    I fully support anyone that doesn’t want to watch the Games or any athlete that decides – on their own – not to participate. Because that’s an individual choice that anyone has a right to make. But dictating that decision to others? That sounds like something Putin would do.

  • Joincny

    Nothing is going to teach the Russians anything. They hate gay people plan and simple. From the looks of it, it looks like Johnny Weir hates gay people too.

  • noheteroblog

    Johnny Weir is right. Human rights are important, but like, a “chance to dazzle the world” is obviously *more* important.

    Ice tricks done in garish clothes > basic human rights and people not being murdered.

    I don’t understand the opposition.

  • Fidelio

    I can’t stand this guy, anymore. He sounds clueless about the plight of the LGBT community in Russia or, at a minimum, tone deaf.

  • PHNorfolk

    I understand the strong drive to compete after so much training. I really do. I understand the points of those who are opposed to a boycott. And I would say that it will do very little except for two nagging questions in the back of my mind. First, what will these athletes, or anyone supporting the no boycott position, say to the person who is at the Olympics as an athlete, coach, staff, fan,etc that is arrested, probably beaten, imprisoned, fined and then deported? The second question is how do you feel knowing that while these events are going on and LGBTQ athletes are having medals hung on their necks, in other parts of Russia members of the LGBTQ family are being beaten, arrested and fined? This question of do we or don’t we boycott is not that simple. I have put a great deal of thought into this and these two questions keep bothering me. Economics is a strong weapon and if there is a boycott it will have a negative impact of the Russian economy. I am joining the ranks of people who, if we do not boycott, will not be watching or even concerning myself with the games.

  • FStratford

    I will boycott the games

    But I cant criticize the athletes too much (they can still go and oppose the rules, a-la Madonn, and that’s ok with me too)

    The other reason I am boycotting is …. that when we in the USA had our Olympics in Salt Lake – with the Mormons front and center – it helped them get legitimacy. They got the world to accept that they are “christian” and “mainstream” and are now distinct from their horrible history of prejudice against minorities. The result was that the Mormons were emboldened enough to organize NOM to persecute a new group of minorities.

    Another example: Salt Lake definitely helped that homophobic jerk run for President and get the Republican nomination – using his Olympic experience as a point of reference… and yet our athletes attended.

    Think of how Putin would be able to use the Olympics as a way to show that his views are accepted by the world, and use this new legitimacy to further hurt us.

  • Guilherme

    NO ONE CARES. No one cared about the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany, why would they care about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Homophobic Russa?

  • Palmer Scott

    Let’s be honest. Weir is 29, an inconsistent skater at the best of time. It’s highly unlikely he’s going to be competing.

    That being said a boycott of Russian products alone isn’t going to do much. We need to pressure European and American sponsors. These games are a public relations bonanza for Putin. Hopefully we can show the world that this Stalin wannabe is a thug in a silk suit.

  • Katbox

    that guy is disgusting.
    He’s butchered so many animals in his lifetime just so that he can look “fierce.”
    “guys” like him dont deserve the time of day.

  • tookietookie

    Yep, Johnny Weir you suck. Turd.

  • Aaron in Honolulu

    Mr. Weir is right. Boycotting is not going to call much attention to the serious issue at hand. I think it would be better if the US just exposed Russia’s homophobic laws in their coverage of the games. It’s a better strategy than the public just seeing us as annoying and angry protesters. We are not going to win hearts this way.

    Lots of bitter queens in this comment section. What would you expect from us gays? We get picked on as kids so we take it out on each other when we’re adults. Sad.

    Katbox, your depression and self-loathing is showing.

  • DarkZephyr

    Johnny Weir and Blake Skjellerup can bite me. I am done with them. Woo, a pin. Thanks soooo much Blake.

  • DarkZephyr

    Johnny Weir shouldn’t be putting it on the gay community this way. If there is a boycott, its Russia’s fault, not ours.

    @Aaron in Honolulu: Who’s hearts would we turn off, Aaron?

  • mramseymd

    There should be a concerted effort to appeal to the IOC and have the Olympics moved to a different site. Gay and Lesbian Patrons would not be safe simply attending. This law isn’t just for Russians; it is for visitors too. At my home we will not be watching any part of the Olympics, and I encourage LBGT people and friends of the LGBT community to do the same, as well as potential sponsors of the games. If the Olympics remain in Sochi, I hope they are the poorest attended in history, and do not generate income to support these hateful laws.

  • JesusAK

    Silly little queen is all about herself. Hope she lands herself in prison but she probably would enjoy that too much. It is queens like this that slap the Gay Rights movement in the face.

  • JessicaNaomi

    @tardis: Weir cares more about medals than Putin’s Pogroms against LGBT Russians. Those who do not learn from history repeat history
    Deciding Whether to Boycott

    Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, observers in the United States and other western democracies questioned the morality of supporting Olympic Games hosted by the Nazi regime. Responding to reports of the persecution of Jewish athletes in 1933, Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Committee, stated: “The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race.” Brundage, like many others in the Olympics movement, initially considered moving the Games from Germany. After a brief and tightly managed inspection of German sports facilities in 1934, Brundage stated publicly that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should go on, as planned.

    Debate over participation in the 1936 Olympics was greatest in the United States, which traditionally sent one of the largest teams to the Games. By the end of 1934, the lines on both sides were clearly drawn. Brundage opposed a boycott, arguing that politics had no place in sport. “The Olympic Games belong to the athletes and not to the politicians.” He wrote in the AOC’s pamphlet Fair Play for American Athletes that American athletes should not become involved in “the present Jew-Nazi altercation.” As the Olympics controversy heated up in 1935, Brundage alleged the existence of a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy” to keep the United States out of the Games.

    Brundage’s rival, Judge Jeremiah Mahoney, president of the Amateur Athletic Union, pointed out that Germany had broken Olympic rules forbidding discrimination based on race and religion. In his view, participation would mean an endorsement of Hitler’s Reich.

    Judge Mahoney was one of a number of Catholic leaders supporting a boycott. Al Smith, governor of New York, and James Curley, governor of Massachusetts, also opposed sending a team to Berlin. The Catholic journal The Commonweal (November 8, 1935) advised boycotting an Olympics that would “set the seal of approval upon the radically anti-Christian Nazi doctrine of youth.”

    Beginning in 1933, the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee, joined by the non-sectarian Anti-Nazi League, staged mass rallies to protest Nazi persecution of Jews, political opponents, and others. These groups supported the boycott of the 1936 Games as part of a general boycott of German goods. Other Jewish groups, such as the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith, did not formally support a boycott, in part because they feared that such a posture might trigger an antisemitic backlash in both the United States and Germany.

    Individual Jewish athletes made their own decisions. For example, Milton Green, captain of the Harvard University track team, took first place in the 110-meter high hurdles in regional pre-Olympic trials. His teammate, Norman Cahners, also Jewish, qualified for the final Olympics trials as well. Both chose to boycott the national Olympic trials.

    Many of the liberal and left-wing political groups that denounced Hitler’s fascist dictatorship linked their opposition to the Berlin Olympics with the wider economic boycott of Germany.

    Also in preparation for the arrival of Olympic spectators, Nazi officials ordered that foreign visitors should not be subjected to the criminal strictures of the Nazi anti-homosexual laws.

    America Decides to Go

    On December 8, 1935, the Amateur Athletic Union defeated the proposal to boycott the Olympics by two-and-a-half votes. Avery Brundage maneuvered the vote to achieve a victory.

    At no time did President Franklin D. Roosevelt become involved in the boycott issue, despite warnings from high-level American diplomats regarding Nazi exploitation of the Olympics for propaganda. Roosevelt continued a 40-year tradition in which the American Olympic Committee operated independently of outside influence.

    Once the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States voted for participation in December 1935, however, the other countries fell in line. Forty-nine teams from around the world competed in the Berlin Games, more than in any previous Olympics. Germany had the largest team at the Berlin Games with 348 athletes. The United States had the second largest team with 312 members. The Soviet Union did not participate in the Berlin Games or any Olympiad until the 1952 Helsinki Games.

    IOC Accepts No Dissent

    “Neither Americans nor the representatives of other countries can take part in the Games in Nazi Germany without at least acquiescing in the contempt of the Nazis for fair play and their sordid exploitation of the Games.” — Ernest Lee Jahncke, American member of the IOC, in a letter to Count Henri Baillet-Latour, President IOC, November 25, 1935

    Ernest Lee Jahncke, a former assistant secretary of the Navy, of German Protestant descent, was expelled from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in July 1936 after taking a strong public stand against the Berlin Games. The IOC pointedly elected Avery Brundage to fill Jahncke’s seat. Jahncke is the only member in the 100-year history of the IOC to be ejected.

  • Derek Williams

    Well he has a point, if only the gay athletes pull out. The boycott will only work if either all the athletes pull out and we boycott all things Russian, or everyone turns up and wears rainbow flags and kisses someone of the same sex (whether gay or not) in front of the cameras.

    Then the Russian government would have to arrest the entire games.

    If just the gay athletes pull out then the Russian government will heave a sigh of relief – no gays to spoil their day, and no activism, and they will pat themselves on the back.

    Personally I don’t mind whether it’s a total boycott, or everyone turning up and engaging in civil disobedience, either way something big has to happen otherwise we’re weaker than before the games.

  • Dawson

    And Johnny Weir’s opinion is important because of ?????

    If we quit giving this guy attention maybe he will go away.

  • Mkiel

    @2eo: it seems a medal is worth more than human rights for all.

  • crowebobby

    @the other Greg: But suppose the United States had boycotted the 1936 Olympics (as they should have, since they knew what was going on over there). Would that have made any difference. Maybe not. Just saying.

  • Michael

    I can imagine why Johnny Weir wouldn’t want a boycott. His pocketbook will take a huge hit. Conveniently, he doesn’t have to experience the Russian persecution of gays because he doesn’t have to live there now or after the games. To Johnny Weir I say. The lives of our Russian LGBT brothers and sisters are more important than any competition or your pocketbook.

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