By Rebecca Plotkin
After Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to pardon all Olympic athletes and attendees from Russia’s policy which outlaws gay propaganda, many gay-rights activists are still calling for US athletes to boycott the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. However, competing in the Olympic games in spite of the controversy would speak even louder than a boycott would.
It’s crucial that Olympians, both gay and straight, remain resilient in the face of injustice. Imagine being a gay teenager in Russia and watching your favorite athlete give up his or her dreams after years of training. Would you feel liberated or abandoned by that athlete’s choice? If Olympic players take advantage of the pardon Putin has given them, and openly support gay rights at the games, they will be making a statement even stronger than walking away: by showing the gay youth of Russia—and the world—that it is okay to be gay.
When making their decisions about protesting the 2014 Olympics, athletes need to consider keeping the peace. History has made it clear that boycotts can be powerful, but in this situation, the force of the world’s upset may turn the statement negative. Gay rights activists would become the blame, not the heroes.
Think back to the 1968 Olympics, which froze Tommy Smith and John Carlos in time, black-gloved fists in the air, protesting for black power. That moment should be inspiration for athletes today when they think ahead to the games. Simply displaying the pride flag while competing, or attending as an openly gay player is enough. These small acts show the world that the cause is not an imposition on anyone else's lifestyle.
Clearly, the most effective way to stand up to this injustice is to play on, speaking out for those who cannot. Olympic athletes have been presented with an opportunity to not only play for the gold but for equality, freedom, and the human race.