The Norman Transcript


August 19, 2013

Athletes have a chance to send a message in Sochi



More troubling, he appeared to indicate that homosexual relations were essentially the same scourge on society as substance abuse.

“We want to protect our children whose psyches have not formed from the propaganda of drug use, drunkenness and nontraditional sexual relations,” Mutko said.

Maybe his true feelings somehow got lost in translation again. If not, that sort of talk is downright frightening.

“I’m stunned with the passing of these laws,” said Greg Louganis, probably the greatest diver ever and openly gay. “How can anybody call themselves sane and or even educated? That’s my biggest concern. There are gay kids born every day in Russia. Where are the voices to protect those children?”

That’s where the athletes of the world come in.

Green Tregaro’s manicure was a small step in the right direction. American figure skater Johnny Weir vowed to do more if he qualifies for the Olympics — even at the risk of getting arrested. Every athlete who winds up in Sochi should look deep into his or her heart and see if they can summon the courage to take a stand.

Rest assured, there’s strength in numbers. Putin isn’t likely to fill Russian jails with world-class athletes from around the world.

At the very least, every athlete should reflect on the example set by Smith, Carlos and Norman at the height of another civil rights movement — and the price they were willing to pay. Smith and Carlos were sent home from the Mexico City Games. Norman was ostracized in his native Australia and never got another chance to compete in the Olympics.

“I was extraordinarily confident in my cause,” Carlos said. “I think courage is something that everyone has. It’s just difficult for some people to find that courage within themselves. It’s there. You’ve just to bring it out.”

Carlos, Smith and Norman found that courage and wound up on the right side of history.

They’ll be joined by any athlete who finds it in Sochi.


Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at) or

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