Thomas Roberts   |  August 05, 2013

Russia’s ‘homosexual propaganda’ ban casts cloud over 2014 Olympics

What should be a time of anticipation and excitement in the lead-up to the 2014 winter Olympics has been mired in controversy over a newly-enacted Russian law banning so-called “homosexual propaganda.” Retired rugby player and StandUp Foundation Founder Ben Cohen, Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler, and Athlete Ally founder Hudson Taylor discuss the controversy and how the U.S should respond to the ban.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in.

>>> welcome back. the 2014 winter olympic games in sochi , russia , months away. with a great time of anticipation and excitement for athletes and fans, it has given way to fear and outrage. the controversy a newly enacted russian ball banning homosexual propaganda and prompting arrests in that country. gay bar owners are having a ban on russian vodka and olympians marched in vancouver over the weekend and spoke out about cause to boycott the sochi games .

>> lesbian --

>> it never solved anything. that's running away . i think mark said it great. the london games where it says that, yeah, boycott just herds of people that don't go.

>> we should be looking at concerted actions to other nation to send a message to russian government they find their action unacceptable toot.

>> joining us is ben cohen . sid zeigler and hudson taylor joining me now. great to have you here. ben, i start with you. we all know you from your work on the rugby field and off the field being active in promoting lgbt rights in the uk and united states and your stand-up foundation have the support of prime minister david cameron . to all of us when we look at what is taking place in russia , why aren't there more straight allies that have come forward within russia to try to help out and deal with the discrimination that is taking place within their country? because here we are outsiders looking in, don't they need a bigger incountry movement to deal with this than us?

>> i think, firstly, it's a difficult place to be. i think people bistandard f-by by-stander for not speaking up. i think the occasion the olympics bring is a special moment. we just had the london games and it was absolutely amazing. the whole atmosphere, what it did for the country, what it brought out in the athletes was phenomenal. and to see this olympic games because it's anti-gay law, i'm speechless. i don't know what to say about it. it returns to true sportsmanship and how sports shouldn't be discriminated is worse now and it's shame to see that.

>> it has turned took noointo a political football how people will be treated when they go to sochi . a white house plan to urge russian appeal and appeal to sanctions. what kind of reaction have you seen from washington so far? is there enough momentum and support to get any of the things that you want on your list?

>> well, i've had some private conversation with folks in washington and they are paying attention to this. they want to do something. what i've been happy to see the last several days is the calls for boycotts are quiet. boycotts don't accomplish anything and target the wrong people. they target 19-year-old athletes and not the people of russia . i think focusing on those organizations the power brokers of the olympics , big media companies like, frankly, nbc and big corporate sponsors and washington . that's the important piece. because they are able to make change in a way that 19-year-old athletes and telling them that they have to stay home just will never accomplish.

>> sid, you bring up nbc . obviously, we are a part of nbc so we are covering this and we want to be a part of it. nbc universal put out a statement saying this. hudson, let's talk about the spirit of the sport. because we already know that a person who works with your group who is openly gay , speed skater blake skiller.

>> a hard last nim. name. he is encouraging other olympians to speak out about this. he says a boycott the games would send the wrong message. he wants to go and wear a rain below flag pen so people know exactly where he stands on this issue and encouraging other athletes to do so as well. is the onus more on allies now, not just within the lgbt community but allies who feel this is discriminatory and unfair. but what is happening in russia after the olympics go away?

>> i think it's a both and. it's clear that the anti- lgbt propaganda law in russia affects lgbt and allies. i think how we respond to that i think is something that everyone should be really focused on and care about. i really think we have two things that we need to accomplish. one, we need to make sure that lgbt and ally fans and participants at the games are protected from persecution. we need to, two, make sure that the russian lgbt community has a better life experience and these laws aren't affecting them after the games . we use sochi as a vehicle to change that. you know, if we remain tolerant of this intolerance it's those people that are going to face the consequence. so we need to come on together and we need to speak out and not sit out at the games and i think the athletes and their allies are the people to do that.

>> ben, do you agree with that? being someone who is an athlete and played on these feels you know what it's like, the preparation that goes into being able to achieve the highest level in sport by attending the olympics , while some people think to themselves maybe they need to boycott. is that the wrong way to go, that that would be cowarding away from a situation where people need to show up and be accounted for?

>> i don't think we should boycott the games . i think the power outside the games is where companies and the governing bodies need to deal with that situation. yes, we do neat ed allies in sports. we need people to stand up and say, despite color of skin and sexual orientation and it doesn't matter. you should be judged on your talent and go there and play and it should be a safe place and should be no discrimination at all. it's a sad state to be in, but we do need people to speak up and say this is wrong.

>> sid, with your efforts and what you're trying to do at the ioc there is a gray area . politicians in russia speaking out saying this is a problem for the people coming to the country and other politicians saying this is going to be enforced because not an opportunity for russia to go back and amend this law and they will not create a bubble for people to operate in while they go after other people for law breaking issues. what kind of assurances do you think you're capable of getting from the ioc ?

>> russia does not want an international incident coming out of these olympics . no host nation started rounding up people nazi's didn't do it in 1906 . humanioc. look. russia -- human rights violations is not something that's new to russia . they've been doing things like this for decades at the soviet union and now as russia . ioc chose them. kinds of things that they need to do is make sure that the government tells the police not to be arresting people for holding hands. they need to ignore parts of the law. they have to do this. they cannot start arresting people. remember, russia has a vested interest. they're supposed to host the world cup in four years. some people would say it is even bigger than the olympics in a lot of places in the world. so russia does not want an incident coming out of this where they might end up losing the world cup in four years. it is important for the ioc and other power brokers to impress upon the russian government the rest of the world will not tolerate this.

>> the white-hotspot light is on us because of the olympics but just because the olympics go away doesn't mean that there aren't oppressive tactics being issued there against the lgbt community and straight allies , violence that will continue to happen. thanks to all the gentlemen -- i appreciate it. we'll