President Obama sent a clear protest of Russia’s crackdown on gay rights Tuesday by designating delegations to the Olympics in Sochi that include openly gay athletes but none of the nation’s top political figures.
Among those who will represent the United States in Sochi in February will be Billie Jean King, a tennis pioneer, and Caitlin Cahow, a two-time ice hockey Olympian, both of whom are gay. […]
The Sochi Olympics have drawn attention because of a law in Russia banning so-called gay propaganda. Obama did not cite the law explicitly on Tuesday, but a White House statement pointedly used the word “diversity” twice.
What’s more, note that the U.S. Olympic delegation is traditionally led by someone from the White House – current or former president, vice president, or member of the First Family. For Sochi, as Rachel noted on the show last night, Obama tapped former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, which means no one from the White House or even from the president’s cabinet will be on hand for the opening ceremony.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told reporters yesterday that the president’s schedule won’t allow him to attend the games in person, but he’ll be rooting for American Olympians from the White House. “He knows they will showcase to the world the best of America – diversity, determination and teamwork,” Hayden said.
As Politico’s report noted, she added that delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States. All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism, and sports. We are proud of each and every one of them and think they will serve as great ambassadors of the United States to the Olympic Games.”
Stepping back, this also strikes me as this latest in a series of elections-have-consequences moments. Conservatives have come to celebrate Vladimir Putin as something of an international hero, while religious right activists cheer on his culture war from afar. Obama has been highly ambitious and progressive when it comes to advancing LGBT civil rights, and his choice in Olympic delegation members sends a signal the world will notice, but I can’t help wonder if the delegation would have been less diverse if, say, Americans elected a Romney/Ryan administration.