Express yourself-just not in Sochi

Published On August 14, 2013 | By Alice Cook


Johhny Weir and Russian-American husband Victor Voronov

Johhny Weir and Russian-American husband Victor Voronov

The issues and challenges relating to freedom of speech have made headlines lately. Here in the USA, that right was abused by a drunken football player whose racist remark went viral.

Meanwhile in Russia, it’s more a matter of expression repression. With the Sochi Winter Games just six months away we have learned that “gay propaganda” is strictly prohibited in Russia. In other words, if you come, leave those rainbow flags at home or face deportation.

Let’s start the discussion with Riley Cooper, a receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. Cooper did what any number of immature white guys do at Kenny Chesney concerts. They get drunk, act like jerk, and forget that everyone around them has a cell phone that shoots video. Remember the Gronk body slam on stage in Vegas? Rob Gronkowski‘s antics were stupid given his broken forearm, and they might have pissed off his bosses, but they did not hurt anyone.

Not the case with Cooper, who threatened “to jump that fence and fight every n—– here, bro.” Witnesses said Cooper was intent on getting backstage even though he had no credentials to do so.

Since the incident in June, Cooper has been apologizing profusely, attended counseling, and talked about letting his parents down.

Then there are the knucklehead Eagles fans who tried to defend the racial slur while pretending that they actually studied the U.S. Constitution back in high school.

Thanks to the anonymity of social media, there were spineless, clueless people tweeting in support of Cooper, like this one Sports Illustrated writer Jack Dickey found in a recent article: “We have free speech. No one apologized for saying white man can’t jump, I am a giant fan but now a fan of yours too #beproud.”

Riley Cooper took an unalienable American right and butchered
it. Meanwhile in Russia we learned that certain freedoms of expression are against the law.

“Homosexuality in Russia is legal, but flaunting it is against the law. Public displays of affection between the same-sex couples are punishable along with wearing certain clothing or other statements affirming gay rights.”

Throughout history we have observed Russia to be more than just little bit behind the times on human rights and freedom. When I heard about this anti-gay legislation I chalked it up to some USSR law they never got off the books.

Not so. Russian president Vladmir Putin signed this bill into law on June 30. The same guy who denied stealing Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring is now an even bigger fool.

I wonder how this is all going to play out in the world of figure skating, where any number of men are openly gay.

Johnny Weir is a two time Olympian trying to make it three. If he makes the team can he bring his Russian-American husband and not fear being deported or going to jail?

If the Russian’s are worried about gay people wearing “flamboyant clothing,” a good number of figure skaters are in for a big-time wardrobe change. There is plenty of glitter and feathers out there and we aren’t talking just about the ladies.

Does the “kiss and cry” area ban any hugging between coaches and skaters of the same sex?

The whole thing is laughable. I grew up with figure skaters, had lots of gay friends (still do) and gay coaches.

President Obama recently spoke out on the subject and said,” If Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, every decision should be made on the track, swimming pool or balance beam.”

It seems the President forgot these were the “Winter” Olympics, and more appropriately the decisions should be made on the ice, slopes, bobsled run and speed skating track.”
(A technical deduction in figure skating terms)

Johnny Weir has already spoken out on the subject. (see the video below) He says he will not run up into the stands to hug his husband if he makes the team and skates well. He’ll save it for a “private moment.”


He shouldn’t have to make that choice. Trying to please the “Russian judge” is something that goes way back in the world of figure skating. It had to do with the consistently low scores they gave to American skaters.

Back then the Russian judge wore a big fur coat and a grim scowl. Now we know the Russian government scowls at free expression. Tell that to the Bolshoi Ballet. And while you’re at it, stick it under your fat ushanka.




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About The Author

is a veteran television sports reporter and Olympian. Her experience includes 25 years of sports reporting for WBZ-TV, the CBS and former NBC affiliate in Boston. Cook has worked for ESPN, Turner Sports, and WTBS. Cook is a feature writer for She's Game Sports and She is also President and Founder of She's Game Sports LLC.