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Dear NHL, Take the Fall for Olympians and Boycott Sochi

Posted: 08/12/2013 7:41 am

George Takei, bless his heart, can protest all he wants, but the Winter Olympics will not be moved from Sochi -- to Vancouver, or anywhere else. Not because of an abhorrent new law that bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," not for whatever evil thing Vladimir Putin dreams up next, not for anything. It's not going anywhere.


For the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its media and advertising partners, there's simply too much invested in Russia at this point to even consider relocation. And for the soulless IOC, there's ultimately only thing that really matters: The $50 billion Russia has spent on these Games so the Olympics could have another dazzling host city. Everything has to be new, new, new, and Vancouver is old -- Olympic officials will have little to say about Putin's persecution of gays, just as they were mum about China's godawful human rights record when the Games were in Beijing in 2008.

If we can't move the Olympics, we should boycott them, right? Well, actually, that seems to me an unfair burden to place on amateur athletes, most of whom toil in obscurity and without adequate remuneration for all but two-and-a-half weeks out of every four years. The Olympics -- just getting there, let alone winning a medal -- is the pinnacle of the amateur athlete's career, and they should just give that up? Olympians ask us for so little (which is good, because that's all they're getting) it's wrong to take this away from them.

Still, Russia can't be allowed to get away scot-free -- something must be done. But if the IOC won't do it, and if amateur athletes shouldn't have to do it, who's left?

If only there existed a group of athletes who were going to Sochi to compete but were actually highly paid professionals, not amateurs. Maybe we could ask them to sit out in protest, and it wouldn't be as big a deal as if we asked real Olympians...

The NHL should boycott Sochi.

The players don't need the medal money (the minimum NHL salary for the 2013-14 season is $550,000; a gold medal is worth $20,000 from the Canadian Olympic Committee). And the league doesn't appear convinced it requires the exposure, since this may very well be the last time it partners with the IOC.

It's not to say hockey players don't derive some national pride from donning their country's jersey (indeed, if the NHL were to boycott Sochi, one would expect a whole bunch of Russian players to abandon the league for the Olympics and, then, the KHL) -- only that they probably shouldn't be there in the first place and probably won't be for much longer. Besides, the time difference is a pain to adjust to, the Olympic break stretches the NHL season too long and the television ratings won't be anywhere near what they were in Vancouver.

Yes, NHL hockey is the best thing going at the Winter Olympics -- winter or summer -- and it'd be a bummer not to have it. But we could still have other hockey at the Olympics: Let the juniors play. What they should really do is move the world junior tournament from December to February, but if that won't work, let them play twice -- it's not as if we won't go bonkers again. The hockey would still be good, and the players would actually be amateurs (or at least not yet multimillionaires). We'd still watch, and, if Canada won, we'd still celebrate as if it were the greatest thing in the world.

The people who run the Olympics like to tell us Olympic competition is sport in its purest form, and that amateur athletes are its noble competitors -- that's a marketing tool, sure, but it's also a fairly honest assessment of the honour and grace, not to mention dedication, of amateur sports, and it's good to be reminded of that from time to time. These athletes work too hard for us to ask that they forgo their 17 days of glory.

As for Putin and his supporters, it goes without saying honour and grace are nyet in their vocabulary. But honour and grace are too often also missing from professional sports -- blunted by celebrity and branding, and lots and lots of money. Here's an opportunity to change that, to show professional sports can have a social conscience. Sochi's as good a place as any to start.

Read more things from me here. Thanks.

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  • New York

    From Scott G. Brown aka Gene Brown, a member and participant of the 1969 Stonewall Inn raid and riots: "My ailing health has prevented me from making this 1,200 mile trip by Bus for next week's Pride Parade, but I can, truthfully, say that I was there in June 2011."

  • Washington, D.C.

    From Ashley Bartolome: "I took these photos at the Pride Parade in Washington, DC on June 9, 2012." What I love about pride is not only seeing but feeling the acceptance of everyone there. Gays, lesbians, heterosexuals and families attend every year supporting with cheers and smiles. I make it a point to attend pride every year not just for myself, but to give a voice and be a face for all LGBT people who can't speak up due to their closets or fears. I want to show them that it's ok to be who they are and there are countless Americans who accept them. I also like to be there out of respect for the LGBT who have been killed by others - or by their own hands - because of their sexuality.

  • Sao Paulo, Brazil

    From Welton Trindade, journalist and a gay activist: "I took part of Sao Paulo LGBT Parade. The march was realized on Sunday, June 10. That was the 16th edition of the event. Well, I wanted to show my body but a parade, in my opinion, is not just fun! So I've decided to show my muscles and, in the same time, to send a good message. The solution: to write 'Poder gay' (or 'Gay power') on my chest! It was a great experience!"

  • Zurich, Switzerland

    Vorstand, the organization team from the Zurich Pride Festival is meeting Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, from left: Chriss, Patrik, Nathalie, Simonetta Sommaruga and David.

  • Berlin, Germany

    From Eva Adams: "Hundreds of thousands came out to celebrate gay rights in Berlin this year and I had the privilege of riding on a hetero-leaning wagon in support...It was extra special to land at the Reichstag with tens of thousands behind us celebrating love and tolerance. I'm not able to pick a best photo but needed to share. Thanks for your project!"

  • Bologna, Italy

    From Marilena: "I was at this year's national italian Gay Pride in Bologna! It was my first pride and it was amazing! I felt surrounded by so much love and most of all I felt safe and proud of who I am! Baci!"

  • Brussels, Belgium

    From Evert Hermans & Birger De Rese: "We've been married for 4 years now. We're proud to have in Belgium legalized same sex marriage!"

  • Seoul, South Korea

    From Nate Meyer: "I am an American teaching English here in South Korea, I recently

  • West Hollywood, California

    From married couple Andi & Carissa: "Our pup Simon enjoyed his first Pride Parade in West Hollywood on June 10!"

  • Shanghai, China

    From Abby Lavin, a volunteer with shanghaiPRIDE, who shares this image of a "Pink Picnic" (photo taken by Linda Li)

  • Tel Aviv, Israel

    From The Israel Project

  • Gran Canaria, Spain

    From Chris Wadsworth: "This is (left to right) myself, Gareth and Daniel at Maspalomas GayPride 2012 in Gran Canaria, Spain. The whole island (and thousands from all over Europe) turn up for the week long event every May to celebrate and meet LGBT people from all over the world!"

  • Meridas, Mexico

    From Memo Macas: "It was the first time that I ever participated in the event and I really enjoyed it, next year I'll go with my boyfriend to Mexico City's Pride Parade."

  • Baton Rouge, Louisana

    From Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge: "We made history in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Saturday, June 23, with the first ever statewide Equality March. Here's a picture of both the youngest and the oldest marchers!"

  • Philadelphia

    From Daniel Douglass, founder/director of Flaggots: "Here's a photo of FLAGGOTS performing to Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody' at Philly Pride, June 10. FLAGGOTS are a group of friends from the color guard and drum corps community that come together to celebrate Pride in a most fabulous way. Founded in 1991, they have performed in at least one pride event a year for 23 consecutive years.'

  • Chicago

    From Karen Belgrad: "At my friend's apartment, overlooking the parade route, he casually tosses out beads...and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel catches them with ease! OK, and a little lunging!)"

  • Los Angeles

    Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sergeant Don Mueller and LAX Airport Police Officer David Ayala celebrate pride as they prepare to march with over 60 other openly gay officers in the 2012 West Hollywood CSW Pride Parade.

  • Waikiki, Hawaii

    From Bob Brennan: "Also there was a party at Allah Moana Beach Park. Everybody was gay that day."

  • Columbus, Ohio

    From Keli Stooksberry: The picture on the right is my friend Courtney talking to protesters. The picture on the left is of my partner DeAnna and I kissing in front of the protesters. This was my second pride and the first interaction with protesters. I was not surprised but still overwhelmed by their presence in such a wonderful and uplifting celebration. My friend Courtney had one of them speechless by the end of their conversation not by throwing obscenities his way but rather using her knowledge of scripture. Again, I was not surprised that the man she spoke with had no more knowledge of the bible than the words written on his sign but it was priceless to see him have nothing left to say because Courtney was right!

  • Baton Rouge, Louisana

    From John Desselle: "It only took what, 42 years, for Baton Rouge to have a state wide Equality March. Headed up by Capital City Alliance: www.ccabatonrouge.org, we had representatives from all over the state. About 300 people showed up for the march. Most went on to our Baton Rouge Pride Festival which was at LSU Student Union this year."

  • Queens, New York

    From Michael Cruz: "I am the Secretary of the Queens Pride Lions Club. We are the first LGBT Lions Club in NYC. Here is a photo of us marching in the Queens Pride 2012 parade on June 3."

  • Berlin, Germany

    From Teena Lashmore: "Hi from Berlin!"

  • Houston

    Melanie Pang (in pink) taking a photo with the men (and "noodles") of Jenni's Noodle House, a Houston favorite.

  • Indianapolis, Indiana

    From William George: "This is me at Indianapolis Pride 2012. I consider myself a Pride aficionado. I love all the togetherness and the fun times. This year's Indianapolis Pride was the largest the city had ever hosted, with the festival expanding to twice the size it was previously. The headliners were Deborah Cox and Cazwell. While I didn't get to see him in person, I snapped this picture next to a promotional poster of him."

  • Madison, Wisconsin

    Jenny Lee tells us: "I am the girl wearing the rainbow sarong, under the banner that says 'Coming out, coming together.' It was taken in August 22, 2011 during a Wisconsin Pride parade. None of my friends was in the event. I had just finished my run that day when I noticed that something was going on. When I realized it was a LGBTQ Pride event, I went home home, grabbed my sarong that I got in Thailand and jumped right into the parade to show my support and that's why the picture. I had only been in Madison, WI for about 3 months. I moved to the city for grad school. What I noticed about the community is that it's liberal, tolerant and I felt belong...I'm straight and I stand for equality."

  • Athens, Greece

    From gay superhero: "I didn't manage to be at the parade from the beginning, but that gave me the chance to find myself at the head of the march later, as they were going up Stadiou street. This is a central Athens street that saw a lot of disturbances during recent protests, including the death of three bank employees when their building caught fire. So it was nice to see a pacifist, colorful demonstration for a change."

  • Los Angeles

    Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck march in the 2012 West Hollywood CSW Pride Parade with over 60 openly gay peace officers from the LASD, LAPD, FBI and other police departments throughout southern California.

  • Toronto, Canada

    From Melissa: "This is me and my partner Jean. The first picture was taken at Toronto Pride in 2010 -- we are just up on Church Street. Our first pride and we are still very happily together 3 years later!"

  • Brooklyn, New York

    From Bob: "Five-year-old corgi Carter (recently rescued from a shelter in Alabama) steps out Brooklyn to celebrate his first LGBT Pride in New York City."

  • Philadelphia

    From right to left: Stephanie (far right) with girlfriend Jackie (left of me) along with best friends Erika and Katie at Philadelphia Pride in front of the Ben Franklin Bridge at Penns Landing.

  • New York City

    Sharon Needles performs at the Barefoot Wine Pride Kick Off Celebration in NYC on June 20.

  • Boston

    From T.J.

  • Boston

    From T.J.

  • Amarillo, Texas

    Happy Gay Pride 2012 from Amarillo, TX -- Route 66 Cadillac Ranch!

  • Amarillo, Texas

    Happy Gay Pride 2012 from Amarillo, Texas -- Cadilliac Ranch!

  • Charleston, West Virginia

  • Boston

    From T.J.

  • Waikiki, Hawaii

    From Bob Brennan: "It was a gay (happy) sunny day on O'ahu. First there was a parade from Ala Moana Beach park to Kapiolani Park where there was a celebration. Also there was a party at Allah Moana Beach Park."

  • Detroit, Michigan

    From Gary.

  • Huntington, New York

    From Maosung Yao: "I went to [Long Island Pride] with my partner Walter last weekend and we had a good time with our friends as well. The pride was great even thought it was small.

  • Denver, Colorado

    From Adam Barnhardt: "I'm the one with the rainbow mohawk, the one with the Pink hair and football gear is Emilio Cordova, and the one in white with the body paint is Loa Brannigan. We were featured in Metro State's student newspaper for our bizarre homemade outfits and all around theatrical method of showing pride in our true colors."

  • Los Angeles

    From Angela Huerta, rider: "First time [Kristin Holloway and I] participated in Dykes on Bikes!"

  • New York City

    Sharon Needles performs at the Barefoot Wine Pride Kick Off Celebration in NYC on June 20.

  • Sacramento, California

  • Washington, D.C.

    From Ashley Bartolome: "I want to show them that it's ok to be who they are and there are countless Americans who accept them. I also like to be there out of respect for the LGBT who have been killed by others -- or by their own hands -- because of their sexuality."

  • Washington, D.C.

    The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) is a multicultural youth agency for youth of all backgrounds with the mission to support youth and their families to live, work, and study with dignity, hope and joy. LAYC staff and youth participants walked in the parade with hand-made tie-dye t-shirts handing out candy and information about LAYC's LGBT support services. We had a fantastic time feeling the love and support of the community.

  • Phoenix

    From Betty Viveros: "I got the greatest experience to participate in my first of many PRIDE festivals in Phoenix, Arizona earlier this year. I went with a group of my closest friends who are all, like myself are huge LGBQT supporters. Walking around shirtless guys and half-naked girls never looked so hot...literally. It hit 100 degrees that weekend!"

  • New York City

    Sharon Needles fans root her on at the Barefoot Wine Pride Kick Off Celebration on June 20.

  • Providence, Rhode Island

    From Mark Peters, who took this photo of Providence's "Nighttime Illuminated Pride Parade" on June 16.

  • Boston

    Miss Trans New England

  • Washington, D.C.

    Jeff, Sal and Michael enjoy beverages in the scorching heat.

 

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