LGBT athletes question safety in Sochi

Richard Drew/Associated Press Demonstrators mark the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games with a protest in New York Feb. 6.
Richard Drew/Associated Press Demonstrators mark the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games with a protest in New York Feb. 6.

Richard Drew/Associated Press
Demonstrators mark the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games with a protest in New York Feb. 6.

Prior to the 22nd Winter Olympics, national concern was raised over the safety of LGBT athletes in Sochi, Russia. While the games are being held more than 6,000 miles away from Murray, students are still speaking out about the discrimination.

Jody Cofer Randall, LGBT coordinator for Murray State, said he thinks Russia’s stance toward the LGBT community is troubling.

“I would have liked to have seen the International Olympic Committee taken a firmer stance for fairness and equality, but leading up to Sochi the last several months the conversation has really been heartening,” Cofer Randall said. “There have been so many people come forward in support of gay athletes as they compete for the honor of being known forever more as an Olympian.”

He said he thinks President Barack Obama made the right decision by naming a pro-equality official delegation to represent the U.S. and cheer on our athletes at Putin’s games.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, did not attend the opening ceremonies, but in an interview with NBC, he said, “There is no doubt we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

About 40,000 members of the Russian security forces are on duty in and around Sochi during the Games, the most in Olympic history.

Feb. 6, the night before the Olympics’ opening ceremony, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an end to the attacks and discrimination against gays.

Student Government Association President Jeremiah Johnson said he thinks the U.S. is taking a positive step in the future with Obama supporting the LGBT athletes in the Olympics.

“It shows we are trying not to discriminate against one certain group of people,” Johnson said. “The Olympics are about skill and athleticism, not sexual orientation or anything else. The games are supposed to unite people together for a common interest – sports.”

Morgan Randall, senior from Murray, said she has mixed feelings about the Sochi Olympics.

“I think it is terrible how Russia treats the LGBT community within their country, but I would like to think and I hope that LGBT persons who are competing in or are part of the Sochi Olympics would have the protection they need,” Randall said. “I hope that overall, Russia can come to a place where all people are safe in their country.”

“It can also be seen as a good thing the Olympics are there right now because I believe that a lot of the bad publicity that has come out has a lot to do with all the Olympic focus,” Randall said. “This could become a positive, that activists around the world now know what is going on and can work to change it.”

She said she thinks it is great Obama sent openly LGBT people to represent the U.S.

“While the U.S. isn’t perfect with our equality of the LGBT community, we are much further along than Russia, so why not show the support there is in our country and send openly LGBT persons to represent,” Randall said.

Along with students, three multi-million sponsors, AT&T, DeVry University and Chobani, have taken public stands against Russia’s anti-gay law. While other official sponsors such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have released statements about not discriminating against anyone, other advertisers have remained silent.

“I think it’s important that some of these companies are showing they are in support of people in general. People are what matter,” Johnson said.


Story by Meghann Anderson, News Editor