Renowned tennis player Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow are the two openly gay athletes whom President Barack Obama has selected to be part of the U.S. delegation for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, sending a clear message to that country about its treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the Associated Press reports.
Russia has been under fire for passing and defending national laws prohibiting “gay propaganda.” Although the White House said nothing specifically about the laws during the delegation announcement, spokesman Shin Inouye said that the chosen delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States,” and that the president “knows they will showcase to the world the best of America—diversity, determination and teamwork.”
Obama will not attend the games—nor will Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama or any former president. This is the first time since 2000, the AP notes, that no current or former president, or current vice president or first lady, has been present at the Olympics. Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will lead the delegation.
Obama’s inclusion of openly gay athletes at the Olympics despite the host country’s discriminatory policies is getting some applause. “It’s a positive sign to see openly gay representatives in the delegation,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. “Hopefully it sends a message to the Russian people and the rest of the world that the United States values the civil and human rights of LGBT people.”
King, who is a 39-time Grand Slam title winner, is also proud to be representing the LGBT community as well as the United States. “I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi, and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people,” she said.
Read more at the Associated Press.