After visit to Sochi for Olympics, Billie Jean King ‘more than concerned’ about safety of gays in Russia

'Basically, it's OK to hate now and you can get away with it'

After visit to Sochi for Olympics, Billie Jean King ‘more than concerned’ about safety of gays in Russia
03 March 2014

Reflecting in her whirlwind trip to the Olympics in Sochi last month, sports icon Billie Jean King left inspired by the athletes but worried about the gay people who live in Russia.

King, 70, spent three days in Russia and attended the closing ceremonies as part of the official US delegation to the games.

While there, she met with a Russian teen who is gay and is getting bullied in an atmosphere where an anti-gay propaganda law has led to an increase in violence.

‘I’m worried about the LGBT community for their safety,’ King tells the Associated Press.

‘Basically, it’s OK to hate now and you can get away with it,’ she says. ‘I’m concerned, more than concerned.’

What can be done?

‘The main thing is to let them know we care and we can help LGBT organizations that help the community,’ King says. ‘Dialogue is always good, but action is important, too.’

While she connected with the bullied teen, King did not find many Olympians who wanted to talk about human rights while they were competing.

‘The athletes pretty much kept it mainstream, "this is about sports, keep the politics out."’

But, King adds, ‘There’s politics in everything – especially with this.’

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