Former NBA player John Amaechi expresses support for LGBT Russians


amaechi-youngAmidst calls for boycotts, bans and a relocation of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, out former NBA player John Amaechi has written an open letter to Olympic athletes and National Olympic Committees urging them not to boycott and not to stand as silent witnesses to the atrocities being committed against LGBT Russians.

“Reasonable people can argue whether your ‘job’ is to win medals, to ski, skate, shoot and whatever else you do better than anyone else in the world. But as a former athlete myself, I know that what we do in practice and competition is only one small part of of our job,” Amaechi wrote.

“Many of you are icons in your respective sports, inspirational to a generation of young people who hang on your every tweet, ape your every action and follow your every suggestion. As such, it is your responsibility – as much as the quest for gold – to show the world that you understand that sport, especially Olympic sport, IS intrinsically political,” he said.

“It is your responsibility as you prepare to go to Sochi to publicly acknowledge that your games happen on the backs of the abuse of migrant workers, the threatening of environmental activists and journalists, and indeed, in the context of a country that is facilitating and then ignoring the torture of young gay boys and girls.”

“I’m not here to distract you from your previously singular purpose of representing yourself and your country in Sochi. Rather, I want you to fulfil that obligation to it’s fullest. I want you to embrace the supposed ‘Fundamental Principles of Olympism’ and in the IOC’s own words “…place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” former NBA center wrote.

amaechi-orlandoDespite the ambiguity as to whether displays of support for LGBT rights will be tolerated by the Russian Federation to say nothing of the IOC itself, Amaechi underscores his belief in the importance of standing up and speaking out against the persecution of gays in Russia.

“I understand the logical, principled stand behind a call for a boycott, but I see it as impractical, politically untenable and if attempted, at best, piecemeal. I have also spoken to several key Russian activists who want the games to go ahead so that the athletes can compete, win and most importantly when they take those podiums – stand for something more than their personal and national glory,” he said.

“Maybe you wish sports wasn’t political, maybe you think misguidedly that it isn’t, but whatever your thoughts, understand that the young people being tortured in Russia today will not know by telepathy that you abhor their treatment, the families of slain journalists will not not understand by looking into your tearful eyes on the podium that you support them and the world will not recognise that you stand for more than yourself unless you say or do something to make that clear at a time when the world is watching you.”

In 2012, Amaechi criticized the IOC’s “cowardice” for not standing up for LGBT rights.

Amaechi spent 5 years in the NBA, playing for Cleveland, Orlando and Utah. During his best season, with Orlando Magic (99-00), Amaechi averaged 10.5 ppg and 3.3 rpg per game, playing 80 games (53 started), in 21.1 minutes per match.

Amaechi played a total of 294 NBA games (93 started), averaging 6.2 ppg and 2.6 rpg in 16.4 minutes per game.

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