Hard to have a Jesse Owens Olympic-moment when IOC tells gays “stay in the closet”

When talking about Russia’s anti-gay/anti-trans clampdown and the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, some raise the example that African-American Olympian Jesse Owens set by going to the 1936 Nazi Olympics and winning more gold medals than anyone else at the games.

The only problem is that if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has its way, gay and trans athletes will never have their Jesse Owens moment because the IOC thinks they should remain in the closet.


Shorter IOC: Jesse Owens should have told the Nazis he was “very tan.”

In a rather un-clarifying clarification, an IOC representative made the startling claim to a gay Web site that the Olympic Charter bans “Pride House,” a safe for haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes that was set up at the 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London Olympics.  The Russians have already banned “Pride House” from taking place, while the IOC was famously noncommittal about standing up to the Russian ban.  Now it seems the IOC has taken sides, and is siding with the Russians, and more generally, homophobia:

We also asked if the IOC would provide a safe space – or Pride House – for LGBT athletes, spectators, dignitaries and others during the games to celebrate gay sport and community.

But their spokeswoman told us: ‘Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.

‘This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary.

Yes, the International Olympic Committee just said Pride House is banned.

And even worse, the IOC is claiming that the simple fact of being gay – of anyone finding out that you are gay (or trans) – is a banned “political demonstration.” So gay and trans people need to stay in the closet, or they’re banned from the Olympics. Talk about accepting the Russian’s perverted prejudice hook, line and sinker.

More from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate:

By the IOC’s logic, gay people should be keeping quiet about their sexuality no matter what, in accordance with Rule 50. If they speak out and get arrested under Russian law—well, it’s not the IOC’s fault that they just couldn’t keep their mouths shut…

[T]he notion that voicing support of gay people and gay rights, or that being gay, is a “demonstration” of “political propaganda” in violation of Rule 50 is obtuse and insulting…

Of course, the IOC’s bizarre intimation that being openly gay is somehow political propaganda has deep roots in homophobic culture. Consider the complaint, still common in parts of this country, about people who seem particularly gay: I don’t have a problem with homosexuality, but why do they have to shove it in my face? Where heterosexuality is the norm, any indication of homosexuality might seem like a belligerent affront. That’s certainly how the IOC sees it.

There is no finer definition of homophobia than what just came out of the IOC.  The notion that it’s always the “fault” of the gay person if someone finds out they’re gay.  That the gay person must have been “flaunting” their sexual orientation, or no one would have known.  The proverbial “she was asking for it” defense.

What the old me at the IOC fail to understand is that there are lots of “innocent” ways people find out you’re gay.  There are official documents, for starters – immigration papers, passports, official Olympic documents – that could easily list the legal spouses of gay Olympic athletes, now that gay marriage is legal in more than a dozen countries.

There’s also not-very-flaunting conduct, such as an Olympic athlete going for a drink at a gay bar (it’s not conclusive proof, but the speculation will be out there that they’re gay). Or the more conclusive non-flaunting proof, an Olympic athlete is seen being excitedly greeted by their (gay) spouse after winning a gold medal.  Or is such familial-flaunting only permitted by heterosexuals under the Olympic charter?

Or will straight couples at Sochi be banned from holding hands under Rule 50 as well?

And why stop there?  Being Jewish must also now be a verbotten political demonstration per the newly-Russianized Olympic Charter.  After all, how would anyone know you’re Jewish unless you told them? Oh right, there is that “Israeli Olympic team” problem (why do they always have to flaunt it?)  So is the IOC banning Jewish athletes from wearing Stars of David around the necks, and more importantly, from letting anyone know they’re Jewish during interviews, since coming out of the closet about being a Jew must also violate Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter?  And while we’re at, perhaps we should ban the Israeli flag (along with the Israeli fag), since you can’t be too careful about Rule 50.

And let’s not even start with Christian Olympic athletes – take those crosses off from around your necks, boys and girls, lest someone get the wrong idea.

Of course, the IOC also needs to explain why Pride House is now banned by Rule 50 at the Sochi Games, but it was fine for the London and Vancouver games, both of which had Pride Houses.  I’m very curious to hear the IOC wriggle out of this one.

More from Dominic Dezzutti at CBS Denver about how the IOC’s newfound embrace of Russian homophobia complicates our Jesse Owens Olympic moment:

What complicates matters is that as Jesse Owens ran, it was clear for all the world to see his race. Unless certain Olympians come out or have already announced their sexual orientation before they go to Sochi, the world may have to wait to learn of the history they make until after the medals are won or lost.

I guess according to the IOC, Jesse Owens’ only mistake was refusing to tell the Nazis that he simply had a very dark tan.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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43 Responses to “Hard to have a Jesse Owens Olympic-moment when IOC tells gays “stay in the closet””

  1. Anonymous says:

    If you are scientifically minded and not faith-minded, there is only one correct option. Like accepting the sky is blue. But keep telling yourself that.

    Maybe they don’t use the term because homophobes are not “scared,” they’re just ignorant bullies.

  2. Mina Louve says:

    Russia should really respect the Olympic Charter and respect the delegates in the upcoming 2014 Olympics.
    transfer news

  3. Amanda Rules says:

    There is a reason the AP doesn’t use the word Homophobia anymore – it’s inaccurate and designed to belittle those who are anti-gay.

    At any rate it’s absurd to use the Olympics as a political tool to force an agenda – their country, their rules. Don’t like it stay quiet or stay home.

    You can’t dictate what others have to do (accept gays). Or you become no different than the dictatorships that condemn it.

  4. rmthunter says:

    Better yet, here are their top sponsors: http://www.olympic.org/sponsors

    And a bit on their suppliers: http://www.olympic.org/suppliers

  5. rmthunter says:

    That’s exactly what occurred to me. Given the activity of the Russian skin-heads in doing their part against the “homosexual menace” lately, I’m afraid there could very well be a replay of Munich.

  6. Anonymous says:

    IOC member Gerhard Heiberg: ‘Russia must respect the Olympic Charter, or we will say goodbye to them’

  7. zorbear says:

    Because cigars are bad for you?

  8. Houndentenor says:

    I can’t think of any president who has taken a stand for human rights without being pressured into it by a group of citizens who wouldn’t back down. Obama is no better or worse in that regard to the others (Kennedy and Johnson on civil rights is a good example) who had to be cajoled and coerced by activists who weren’t going away until they did. This is the problem with the current political and media climate. It’s all about “access”. Access requires being polite and telling people what they want to hear and allowing them to use you for their political purposes. What’s that supposed to get anyone. It means the media is nothing but stenographers for various political operatives and that the “mainstream” political organizations are pawns in our politics. If you go in with a list of demands or remind a politician that he or she hasn’t lived up to his or her campaign promises then you lose that access. I have to ask: what good is that access if it doesn’t result in anything?

  9. Naja pallida says:

    It’s pretty disturbing, and similar scenarios were played out again by the IOC in 1968 in Mexico City, in 1980 in Moscow, and there was plenty of political controversy they tamped down in 2008 with Beijing. They always cite the reasoning that sports transcend politics. Apparently that means even if it requires the oppression and exclusion of many people, and glad-handing with evil.

  10. karmanot says:

    The IOC doesn’t have to wriggle out of anything. In shades of Nuremberg, Rule 50 of the Charter makes it perfectly clear that the IOC supports the GLTBQ Pogrom, the purge, persecution, and harm to even its own GLTBQ athletes.

  11. Skeptical Cicada says:

    If we’re debating whether it’s more like Munich ’72 or Berlin ’36 while the IOC collaborates, there is a major fucking problem either way, and some of us said from the start that this “teachable moment”/Jesse Owens bullshit was the wrong response. When will the goddamn cowering gays who sneer at hardball ever fucking learn!? “No, no, we think you should just worship Obama and never push him to do anything.” Fuck those useless blights on the movement

  12. BeccaM says:

    I’ve been doing some surf-research on the 1936 Berlin games, and I must say, it’s been educational. Among the interesting bits:

    – Germany had already banned Jews from all kinds of places, events, and activities, and their Olympics team was no exception. Romani (Gypsies) were also banned. There were two “non-Aryan” women on the German team, but the press was given specific instructions never to mention them, even if they won.

    – As early as 1933, Germany began to ban and/or segregate Jews, Gypsies, and other non-Aryans from German sporting clubs and associations, making it harder even to compete where allowed.

    – African American athletes were referred to in German press and broadcasts as “America’s Black Auxiliaries” and Jesse Owens always referred to as “the Negro Owens.” (Despite this, Owens apparently was a huge, huge hit among the German audiences, who mobbed him everywhere he went, asking for autographs and photos.)

    – The only two Jews on the U.S. track team were dropped at the last minute from the 400-meter relay race. On the morning of the race, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller were informed by their head
    coach they would be replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. Glickman later speculated that IOC President Avery Brundage might have pressured the American coaches to drop the Jews to avoid upsetting Hitler.

    – Initially, back in 1933, Brundage had said all the right things, including, “The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race.” Then he took a trip to Germany for an ‘inspection’ of the German sports facilities, apparently was treated like a huge VIP, and came back a total convert. From another account:

    Brundage opposed a boycott, arguing that politics had no place in sport. “The Olympic Games belong to the athletes and not to the politicians.” He wrote in the AOC’s pamphlet Fair Play for American Athletes that American athletes should not become involved in “the present Jew-Nazi altercation.” As the Olympics controversy heated up in 1935, Brundage alleged the existence of a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy” to keep the United States out of the Games.

    This is sounding awfully damned familiar, isn’t it? A fascinating summary:

    Most tourists were unaware that the Nazi regime had temporarily removed anti-Jewish signs. Neither would tourists have known of the “clean up” ordered by the German Ministry of Interior in which the Berlin Police arrested all Gypsies prior to the Games. On July 16, 1936, some 800 Gypsies were arrested and interned under police guard in a special Gypsy camp in the Berlin suburb of Marzahn. Also in preparation for the arrival of Olympic spectators, Nazi officials ordered that foreign visitors should not be subjected to the criminal strictures of the Nazi anti-homosexual laws.

    (Guess the Nazis were more lenient on gays in this than the Russians plan to be.)

    Items/quotes from:

  13. Naja pallida says:

    Don’t mess with babushka.

  14. Naja pallida says:

    It was kicked off in the summer of 1960 when we started blocking sugar imports from Cuba, and was expanded from there. That alone drove Cuba closer to the Soviet Union for their exports.

  15. lynchie says:

    “strong like bull”

  16. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Where are those fucking quislings Greg Louganis and Cyd Zeigler now? Helping the IOC shove gay athletes into the closet?

  17. nicho says:

    woman, you look too butch

    It’s Russia — I don’t think women can look “too butch”. “Ivan, look at her — big muscles — much good for hard work and bearing children.”

  18. nicho says:

    Actually, it was a JFK thing. The embargo started in 1962. In 1959, while Ike was president, Castro was honored with a ticker-tape parade in NYC.

  19. Whitewitch says:

    Oh well..then it is okay I guess ::wink::

  20. Indigo says:

    What’s clear is that the International Athletic Competitions under the aegis of the IOC are not the Olympian Olympics.

  21. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Thank you!!! I’ve been having severe flashbacks to Munich, and now I’m flashing back to The Front Runner. I remember enough that I know the gay athlete was assassinated.

  22. KingCranky says:

    To add another example, NBC said it was doing everything possible to protect its employees who will be at Sochi.

    Will Russian officials check out the social networking of all NBC employees requesting a visa?

    Will any such employees be at risk of arrest if they’ve posted pics of themselves and their spouses/better halves, will Russian officials claim such online postings are “spreading gay propaganda”?

    If those employees feel at risk should they travel to Russia, will NBC retaliate against them if they request to stay at home, and how would NBC absolutely guarantee the safety of their gay employees who do social network?

    Come to think of it, will Russia check out the social networking of everyone involved in the Sochi Olympics beforehand, will they deny Visas, or allow entry then arrest athletes, spectators and IOC/NBC employees?

    Unless the IOC makes clear that such vile BS will not take place on its watch, I won’t be watching the Sochi Olympics-which sucks, I love the Winter games.

    While my puny gesture won’t change any minds at the IOC, at least I won’t be the least bit complicit in Russia’s repulsive homophobia.

    And that stand will probably continue for all future olympics barring either a strong stand, or sincere apology, from the IOC for its shameful attempts to downplay such glaring human rights violations enthusiastically emanating from the 2014 Winter Games host country.

  23. sunmusing says:

    I fear that there will be someone who thinks they could “buck” the system and get away with it…The Olympics has lost its luster, and objectivity…

  24. Houndentenor says:

    I realize there’s lots of comparisons to Berlin floating around but the more likely scenario is Munich 1972. I doubt the government is going to mess with the athletes, but there’s nothing to stop the thugs that are already harassing and assaulting gay people all over Russia from doing it to visitors.

  25. Houndentenor says:

    That was then. Now you can’t go to Cuba because the descendents of the Battista supporters (the ones who enslaved most of the country in serfdom) form a voting block in an important swing state.

  26. Naja pallida says:

    Indeed. You can’t ban one, without banning them all. It should be taken further. We can’t possibly risk race being seen as a political issue, so everyone will have to shave their bodes and compete in full blue body paint, to disguise their skin color. Technically corporate sponsorship is also against the Olympic charter, so everyone will have to compete in the nude, and be timed by hand, drink nothing but water… because using any one company’s equipment over another is obviously political.

    The real result, is that their new interpretation of Rule 50 is entirely ridiculous and, apparently their rules are only applied when and how they want them applied. Not equally, fairly, nor with sportsmanship in mind. If they were, the IOC would have to ban themselves.

  27. Naja pallida says:

    They’re just repeating history. That’s what the IOC does.

  28. Naja pallida says:

    You can’t go to Cuba because Eisenhower was upset that Castro seized all American-owned interests in Cuba after the US backed the losing side in their revolution… and all Presidents and Congresses since have just shrugged and figured “Why not?” Or maybe, it’s for the children! Why won’t anyone think of the children!?

  29. BeccaM says:

    Again: You can be a straight person. Sitting in a cafe or walking down the street. If you say, “Russia’s anti-gay law is wrong and unjust,” or “There’s nothing wrong with being gay” — and someone overhears you — you can be arrested, imprisoned, fined, and deported for spreading pro-gay ‘propaganda’.

    If you have a photo in your wallet showing a same-sex wedding ceremony of some close relative, or perhaps one showing their family and kids — two dads or two moms. If anybody sees that picture, you can be accused of pro-gay propaganda.

    You can be minding your own business, but someone decides that as a woman, you look too butch. Or as a man, not butch enough. You can be charged as a ‘suspected homosexual’ for using your appearance to propagandize Russians into thinking there’s nothing wrong with being gay.

    Or, as John has pointed out and linked many times, wear a pair of rainbow suspenders and you can be arrested.

    Anyway, as for why the IOC is embracing and supporting Russia’s irrational scapegoating homophobia? I think we all know the answer: $$$

  30. StraightGrandmother says:

    BTW, I’m straight. I had to make that part of my Forum name so as to avoid confusion on what I post. I’m not prejudiced, I’ll take kisses where I can get them.

  31. nicho says:

    The members of the IOC are part of the 0.01 percent. They’re like the leaders of the IMF or the World Bank. They don’t give a shit about real people.

  32. nicho says:

    This could all be solved by Obama issuing an executive order banning Americans from traveling to Russia. After all, I can’t travel to Cuba because — OK, I forgot why can’t travel to Cuba — but Obama could blacklist Russia for its horrendous human rights violations. He could just say it was “to keep us safe.” Apparently, that excuse allows him to do almost anything — up to and including murder.

  33. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I’m afraid that a majority of heterosexuals do not see this as applying to them, and that definitely includes the IOC.

  34. Whitewitch says:

    Oh no…was that a gay kiss to another gay person….hold on their John – you know how offensive and scary that can be .

  35. Whitewitch says:

    This one I like very much.- there should be no display at all of any “orientation”.

  36. Leota2 says:

    Insane, homophobic and chicken shit—-just like I expected the IOC to act.

  37. kevinbgoode says:

    Clearly, by claiming that any expression of sexual orientation is somehow “political,” the IOC must regard the wearing of heterosexual engagement or wedding bands as a “political” statement and therefore must be banned. They should also clearly point out that opposite sex spouses, girl/boyfriends, may not discuss, show pictures, or otherwise display any indication of their relationship orientation in public, or face sanction by the committee.

  38. swak ;)

  39. chris10858 says:

    You mean a real life gay person kissing another gay person… on TV no less? Oh, that’d definitely be gay propaganda! LOL

  40. Bj Lincoln says:

    Awesome John! You brought up some every good points.
    All the female athletes should have long hair or they could be perceived as lesbians? Long hair on males? Kilts? Rainbow tattoos? ( I have one) Religious tattoos? Keep in mind Jews don’t do tattoos so I guess they are safe.

  41. caphillprof says:

    Since when can it anywhere be illegal for the legally wed spouse of an olympic athlete to kiss him/her after a victory?

  42. chris10858 says:

    Wow.. We reach out and beg for the IOC to help stand with us and instead, they decide to stand with Putin and his fascist laws. They tell gay athletes to go back in the closet if they want to compete.

    They have made a grave mistake. Since the IOC members are now COLLABORATORS with the enemy, it’s time to target the members of the IOC directly and put them to shame for their actions and support of Russia and it’s anti-gay laws.

    No matter where you go, people in power like this only really respect/fear one thing: Power/influence. Let’s borrow some tactics out of the NRA playbook and make these people at the IOC afraid to f*ck with us.

    Here’s a list of the IOC members. http://www.olympic.org/content/the-ioc/the-ioc-institution/ioc-members-list/

    While protesting outside of Russian embassies is a good thing… I say members of the LGBT community across the globe should start protesting outside the homes and employers of these IOC members. We should hold up large photos of Putin, Hitler, and photos of the individual IOC members. Hold up banners of the Nazi symbol along with the pink triangle. If they want to ally themselves with Russia, fine. Let’s give them a helping hand and tie this scandal like an albatross around their necks.

  43. StraightGrandmother says:

    You’re on FIRE John, keep going, keep going.

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