Actor and LGBT activist George Takei weighed in on Russia’s harsh new anti-gay policies–and the news that those policies would be enforced on athletes and spectators at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
“Given this position, the IOC must do the right thing, protect its athletes and the fans, and move the 2014 Winter Olympics out of Russia,” wrote Takei on his blog.
On The Last Word Wednesday, Takei told msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell that having the Olympics in Sochi would “besmirch the Olympics name as well as all the corporate [sponsors].”
Takei joins a number of prominent figures who have spoken out against Russia’s draconian anti-gay laws, including actors Harvey Fierstein and Stephen Fry. In a recent piece for The New York Times, Fierstein said the Olympics Committee must “demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott.” Fry wrote British Prime Minister David Cameron an open letter imploring, “At all costs, Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.”
Takei echoes Fierstein and Fry, arguing against the view that moving the Olympics out of Russia would be a step too far.
“Would this be their opinion if the law instead called for the arrest of any Jews, Roman Catholics or Muslims should they display any sign of their religion, such as a wearing a yarmulke or praying while facing Mecca?” Takei wrote. “Discrimination in any form is a blight upon the Winter Games, and it must not be tolerated.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a number of laws in recent weeks that target the LGBT community, including one that bans the adoption of Russian-born children by homosexuals. The law most relevant to the Winter Olympics is one which allows Russian authorities to detain tourists or foreign nationals who are gay or pro-gay for up to 14 days.
“An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko said in an interview last Thursday. “But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”
On his blog, Takei promotes a petition which would move the 2014 Winter Olympics to Vancouver, where they were held in 2010, and where many facilities are still in operation. By Wednesday afternoon, 56,000 people had signed it.
“This is a situation of good vs. evil. It is evil that is happening there, and we must not play into Putin’s game,” said Takei on The Last Word.