Sports

Brian Burke: Russia's anti-gay laws are 'bigotry' and 'outrageous'

Brian Burke – I'd list his position(s), but you know where he's from, don't you? – unleashed perhaps the most critical stance anyone in hockey has taken so far against Russia's anti-gay laws, denouncing the former Soviet Union's quite 'Soviet Union-esque' legislation as "bigotry" and "outrageous".

Burke's comments were published in an editorial he submitted to Sports Illustrated. (Recap from TheScore Blog, by Thomas Drance.)

"Left unchecked, this sort of bigotry will only escalate," he wrote. "The rest of the world cannot bear silent witness."

He said he's not in favour of a ban, arguing that only punishes the athletes.

Burke's son, Brendan, came out as gay in a November, 2009 interview with ESPN's John Buccigross, and died in a car crash the following February. His death was the catalyst for the creation of the "You Can Play Project", an organization which his father, Brian, is now an advocate of.

from Drance, and TheScore:

"Burke strongly rejects the notion of a boycott, which would "punish the athletes who have worked so hard to make the team." However, he pledges to be "publicly pro-gay" while representing his country, USA Hockey, and the You Can Play Project at the Sochi games in Russia.

"The column calls for the International Olympic Committee to guarantee the safety of LBGT athletes, media, guests and the families of athletes while at the games. It further calls for athletes to bring their rainbow pins to the games, and Burke pledges to outfit any interested athletes with You Can Play merchandise."

Burke joined the Calgary Flames last week, and is now their president of hockey operations. He is traveling to Sochi 2014 as a member of Team USA, and as a spokesperson for "You Can Play".

Here are the final two paragraphs from Burke's Sports Illustrated column, titled 'To Russia, With Love':

"I hope athletes of all sexualities and nationalities will recognize the injustices being perpetrated upon innocent people in Russia. I hope they realize that if they join voices, they can effect change. So, Olympians, when you pack your skates, pack a rainbow pin. When you practice your Russian, learn how to say, "I am pro-gay." When you gather your winter clothes, know that You Can Play will happily outfit any Olympic athlete with complimentary You Can Play merchandise.

"The pressure to do what's right shouldn't end with the closing ceremony. The IOC, USOC and each sport's governing bodies should refuse to stage future international competitions in Russia until these outrageous laws are repealed. That is the boycott I'm calling for."

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been heavily criticized for its approach to Russia's new laws, which make anything deemed as "homosexual propaganda" aimed at minors illegal.

The IOC has warned Russia about the potential abuse of its athletes in Sochi, saying, "Sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation."

However, the IOC has also taken a stance against any political displays at the upcoming Winter Games, and that includes those who may protest in favour of gay rights.

When asked if the IOC would allow athletes or fans to wear rainbow pins or hold hands during the Opening Ceremony, or if there would be a 'Pride House' at the Olympic venue, the sporting event's governing body responded quite technically, and coldly, to the suggestion:

"No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

That response from the IOC responded strong statements from several Russian authority figures, including Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who added that everyone at their Olympic Games would have to respect the host country's new laws.

"The law talks not about banning a non-traditional orientation but about other things, about propaganda and implicating minors," Mutko said.

"No one is banning a sportsman with a non-traditional sexual orientation from going to Sochi. But if he goes out onto the street and starts to make propaganda, then of course he will be brought to responsibility.

"As a sportsman, he should respect the law of a country... Come (to Sochi), but don't get young people involved, don't make propaganda. This is what we are talking about."

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News story from Russian channel RT: "West's warped vision of Russian gay life leads to 'crackdown' cries and vodka waste"

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