Target: Nick Symmonds
Goal: Applaud Nick Symmonds for speaking out against Russia’s anti-gay law
Nick Symmonds, a top American distance runner, won the silver medal in the 800 meter race at the track and field World Championships in Moscow and dedicated it to his lesbian and gay friends. Symmonds became the first American athlete to openly speak out and defy Russia’s anti-gay law that prohibits “homosexual propaganda” and broke his prior pledge to not comment on the law while competing at the championships. Symmonds felt he had no choice but to speak out against the discriminatory law and articulate his belief that all human beings deserve equal rights regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation. Symmonds vowed to use his fame as a top runner in the world to champion the cause of equality and protect human rights.
Symmonds further stated that he respected the Russian government and the ability of Russian officials to govern their people. However, he disagreed with their laws and rules regarding homosexuals. Symmond’s assertions are the first major objections to the Russian law by any international athlete and may land him into some trouble with Russian authorities. Russian officials have already deported several foreign activists who have spoken out against or protested the law, including Dutch filmmakers who went to Russia to film a documentary about the activism Russians have engaged in against it.
Track and Field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletic Federations, has adopted a hands-off approach to the anti-gay law, asking Russia to merely reconsider the law but also stating that all athletes must respect it publicly during the World Championships despite their personal beliefs. Many other athletes have vowed to criticize the law publicly during the Winter Olympics, which begin in February in Sochi, Russia. Some openly gay athletes have even gone so far as to say that they are willing to get arrested during the Winter Games in Russia as a sign of protest while others pledge to wear rainbow pins during competition. The International Olympic Committee promulgated that it may punish athletes who openly criticize the law during the Olympics for violating the stipulation that athletes may not make political statements.
American lawmakers have not remained silent about their disdain for the law. A bipartisan group of Congress members sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that urged him to ensure that American athletes were protected in Russia. Furthermore, President Obama openly condemned the law and the potential detrimental effects it may have on the Olympics. Please sign this petition to commend Nick Symmonds’ actions in speaking out for equal rights and for using his international status as a world class track athlete to promote human rights on an international scale.
Dear Nick Symmonds,
We applaud you for speaking out for gay rights and dedicating your silver medal in the 800-meter race at the World Championships in Moscow to your gay and lesbian friends. The recent anti-gay law in Russia that prohibits “homosexual propaganda” is disgusting and should be condemned by all of those who believe in equal rights and social justice. You have limned yourself as an advocate for human rights globally.
It is commendable that you are the first world-class American athlete to openly speak out and defy this heinous law despite the possibility that you may run into trouble with Russian officials. Many foreign activists have been deported by Russian authorities for protesting or speaking out against the law. We applaud your actions for standing up for gay rights and promoting social equity on an international scale.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: lighthousenewsus via Flickr