Campus Pride Blog

Students and Activists Show Support for Athletes Around Sochi Winter Olympics

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“Campus Pride encourages students to remain aware of the current climate in Russia; We must support our athletes and send a message of inclusion for LGBT people.  The whole world is watching.”

(Charlotte, NC) – The 2014 Winter Olympic Games are upon us and athletes are gearing up to compete for Olympic medals to represent their countries. This year issues have risen around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia who face anti-LGBT laws and an oppressive government. The world is reacting.

“The Olympics are the place where athletes come to compete and represent their countries in front of a global audience,” said Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of Campus Pride. “While safety is most important, the focus should remain on the athletic competition while finding ways to highlight and challenge the LGBT discrimination of the oppressive Russian government.”

The anti-LGBT laws are creating a stir of emotions and retaliations from LGBT Russians, Olympic athletes, students and organizations across the world. Russia, last year, passed legislation which bans all homosexual ‘propaganda.’

Around the world students, activists and organizations are coming together to show support for the athletes. Any sponsor of the Olympics should stand for equality and inclusion especially during such a diverse event.

Coca-Cola has been an Olympic sponsor since 1928 and successfully brands products to market and support the Olympic Games year after year.  This year as part of the Coca-Cola Olympic Marketing plan, users were able to go online and personalize a virtual can and share with their friends.  The website prevented the word ‘gay’ or ‘gays’ to be added to the digital message. Meanwhile, the terms ‘straight’ and ‘hetero’ are both accepted by the website. A message appears on the website when a user attempts to add the banned words, “Oops. Let’s pretend you didn’t just type that.”

Currently, Trinity College in Ireland is preparing a campus-wide ban for Coca-Cola and all Proctor & Gamble products during the Olympics as a way to protest Cola-Cola’s sponsorship of the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. Students are using this boycott as an opportunity to show solidarity to the LGBT community in Russia who face persecution and human rights violations.

LGBT activists are reacting by creating marketing campaigns to exploit the treatment of people standing up for the LGBT community in Russia. One video parodies a 1970s Coke jingle “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” using images of gay-rights activists being assaulted in Russia.

President Obama has selected a group of delegates to represent the United States in Sochi as a message of opposition to Russia’s anti-gay laws. The delegates include openly gay tennis idol Billie Jean King as well as 2x Olympic medalist, Boston University student Caitlin Cahow. Being appointed to this group is about celebrating diversity, showing your nationality and joining the long tradition of Olympic athletes.

“Caitlin Cahow is representing more than her Olympic medals and country but she is also representing a long line of women athletes and LGBT pioneers who have pushed for equality,” said Windmeyer. “Campus Pride encourages students to remain aware of the current climate in Russia and find ways to support the LGBT community. We must support our athletes and send a message of inclusion for LGBT people.  The whole world is watching.”

Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.