(Photo courtesy Principle 6 Campaign)
In the weeks leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, the gay rights campaign Principle 6 is partnering with athletes who want to support Russia's LGBT community. According to USA Today, the Australian Olympic bobsled team will be sporting the Principle 6 logo at the bobsleigh World Cup being held in Lake Placid, NY starting this week.
“We’re against discrimination in sport, full stop,” Heath Spence, captain of the Australian Men’s bobsled team, said in a release. "That means we also oppose discrimination against gay and lesbian athletes."
In June, the Russian government passed a law prohibiting gay "propaganda." While direct reference to "homosexual propaganda" was removed from the law, the ban on promoting "non-traditional relations" put a significant damper on the fight for gay rights in the country, the Guardian reported last June.
Since then, there have been mixed messages about what that means for the Olympics. In August, Sports Minister Vitaliy Mutko said that any athletes who violated the law would be arrested and face the possibility of 15 days in jail. But Russian president Vladimir Putin later told AP that Russia would abide by the International Olympic Committee's anti-discrimination principles.
The Principle 6 campaign, which was started by two nonprofits — Athlete Ally and All Out — takes its name from a section of the Olympic Charter which states: "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."
Olympic rules, however, also prohibit any political actions during the Games, meaning Principle 6 has had to find creative ways to get its message out when events begin in Sochi. In December, the campaign launched a clothing line for individual athletes to wear, including shirts that make reference to the Olympic charter. They read: "Sport does not discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, or otherwise."
Both the Australian men's and women's bobsled teams have agreed to display the Principle 6 logo in all races leading up to Sochi. According to Buzzfeed, more than 40 Olympic athletes have backed the campaign as well. In a statement, All Out executive director Andre Banks expressed hope that the number would grow.
“When world-class athletes speak out in support of Principle 6," he said, "the International Olympic Committee and the Russian hosts of this year’s Games are forced to listen. We hope more brave athletes will join the Australian team and speak out powerfully ahead of the Sochi Games.”
Via USA Today