Obama picks three gay athletes to represent U.S. at Sochi Olympics

UPDATE: Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano came out in a statement Thursday, making him the third openly gay athlete on the White House's Sochi delegation.

In August, President Barack Obama told Jay Leno he had "no patience" for Russia's controversial anti-gay law. Months later, it appears he's standing behind those words.


The White House announced Tuesday its delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and three openly gay athletes are among those who will represent the United States in Russia. Notably absent: Obama, his wife, or Vice President Joe Biden.

It's hard to determine which is the bigger jab at Russia: That the U.S. government's top brass is staying home, or that they're sending tennis great Billie Jean King, Boitano and two-time Olympic hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow.


Lest you think Obama's sitting this one out due to Russia granting asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, the White House's statement makes its message fairly clear. While the statement doesn't specifically call out Russia's "gay propaganda" law (or the anti-LGBT violence it helped spark), it notes this year's delegation will "showcase to the world the best of America — diversity, determination and teamwork."

The White House later makes the point that the 10-person delegation, which also includes speedskater Bonnie Blair and former Homeland Security leader Janet Napolitano, "represents the diversity that is the United States."

Obama's decision to skip out on Sochi isn't so novel; he joins French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck on a list of leaders who won't be at the Winter Olympics.

But subbing in King, a sports legend-turned-activist who was the first major professional female athlete to come out, is a strong symbolic stand against Russia's anti-gay law -- certainly a stronger one than any Olympic official has given thus far.

According to the New York Times, this is the first Olympic delegation since 1988 not to include a sitting or past president or vice president or a member of their families.