Sport and Politics In The United States

Authored by: Michael Butterworth

Routledge Handbook of Sport and Politics

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138792548
eBook ISBN: 9781315761930
Adobe ISBN: 9781317646679


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In the months preceding the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, voices from opposite ends of the political spectrum in the United States called for a boycott. Some conservative leaders, such as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, were angered that Russian officials allowed National Security Administration (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden safe harbor within the country. A boycott, he contended, “would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal” that protecting Snowden was “a slap in the face to the United States” (Harris 2013). Meanwhile, some liberals, especially advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, objected to homophobic violence and Russian laws that appeared to sanction discrimination (Smith-Spark 2013). Ultimately, the prevailing wisdom suggested that a boycott would only hurt the wrong people, as Katrina vanden Heuvel put it, “the athletes who have spent lifetimes training for this event” (vanden Heuvel 2013). Moreover, competing in the Games was understood as an opportunity to make a counter-statement. In the words of President Barack Obama:

One of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which would, I think, go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there.

(Smith-Spark 2013)

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