Gay rights campaigners have joined forces with clothing brand American Apparel to produce and promote a range of garments that encourage diversity in sport ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month.
The campaign uses Principle 6 from the Olympic charter to express opposition to Russia’s controversial anti-gay propaganda law that was introduced last summer.
Principle 6 states: ‘Sport does not discriminate on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.’
Athlete Ally, a group which combats homophobia in sport, and gay rights group All Out have been promoting the Principle 6 campaign since October, but has now brought in American Apparel as a merchandise partner.
Branded red t-shirts, hoodies, hats and accessories are available to buy in store and online. Iris Alonzo, American Apparel’s creative director, said the Principle 6 t-shirt was the top selling new style online. Proceeds from sales will go towards supporting the campaign and helping LGBT groups in Russia.
Principle 6 has received support from several of the athletes who will be competing at Sochi in February, such as Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff and Canadian skier Mike Janyk, and also from many former Olympians.
Brockhoff told Gay Star News why she’s getting behind it: ‘Principle 6, a campaign inspired by the values of the Olympic charter, is a way for athletes, fans, and global supporters to celebrate the Olympic principle of non-discrimination and call for an end to Russia’s anti-gay laws before Sochi.
‘I support it because I want to highlight the principles of the Olympics and challenge the increasingly dangerous environment for the Russian LGBT community.’
Campaigners say the merchandise gives athletes a way to show their support for LGBT Russians and to oppose the propaganda law without breaching the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) ban on political protest.
Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, explains: ‘We’ve constructed a campaign that gives athletes the maximum ability to speak out with the minimum risk’.
However, the IOC said it could not rule out any action against athletes who choose to wear Principle 6 clothing during the Games.
An spokeswoman said: ‘As ever any judgement would ultimately revolve around how such clothing could be used during the Games itself.’