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Maddow breaks with NBC: What are we saying by not boycotting Sochi Olympics?

By David Ferguson
Friday, October 11, 2013 10:43 EDT
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Maddow on Russian antiLGBT laws
 
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Thursday night on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow detailed the draconian new laws aimed at LGBT parents in Russia. Under a proposed law, the state can remove children from homes with LGBT parents. She went on to question exactly what the nations of the world are saying by participating in the Olympics hosted by a country that would do these things.

Maddow began the segment by showing the moment that the Olympic flame went out on its journey to Sochi, Russia, where the winter Olympics will be held in 2014. On Sunday, former Russian Olympic swimmer Shavarsh Karapetyan ran the famed Olympic torch through a lengthy pedestrian tunnel leading to the Kremlin.

Now round-figured and out of shape, Karapetyan emerged from the tunnel huffing and puffing and carrying a lifeless Olympic torch. A member of the secret police helpfully offered a cigarette lighter and the former swimmer was on his way again. Then the torch went out again the next day as it was being carried through a Russian city.

“This is not the way it is supposed to go, right?” Maddow quipped. “This is not the way Russia’s Olympics are supposed to start?”

Also, she noted, it was an interesting choice for the 2014 Russian Olympic team to swathe the shoulders and chests of its Olympic uniforms with what looks like the colors of the LGBT rainbow flag.

All of this is happening against the background of the increasingly LGBT-hostile environment in Russia. As gangs of neo-Nazi youth ambush, attack and murder LGBT teens, the government has passed a series of laws designed to oppress all forms of “non-traditional” sexuality.

In addition to making any positive statement about LGBT people or relationships punishable by law under new “propaganda” rules, the Russian government refuses to allow its orphaned children to be adopted by people who come from countries that allow same sex marriage.

“So even unmarried American straight people are not allowed to adopt one of the 600,000 Russian kids up for adoption because America is too gay for Russia,” Maddow said.

Now, an even more vicious law is being considered, one that would allow the state to remove children from homes with LGBT parents.

“And so, it is an interesting question,” Maddow said, “for countries that believe that gay people shouldn’t have their children stolen. It’s an interesting question for other countries in the world as Russia keeps moving on this stuff as to whether or not participating in the Russian-hosted Olympics implies some sort of tacit consent or approval for what Russia is doing.”

Sean Gregory at Time magazine wondered whether MSNBC’s coverage of the issue presents a conflict of interest in that parent company NBC Universal will be the sole U.S. broadcaster of the Olympic games.

NBC has made no official statements on the notion of a boycott, but Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports said that the network will deal with human rights issues during the Olympics on an as-needed basis. “We will address those issues as they are relevant at the time of the Games,” said Lazarus to the Denver Post.

“So how does NBC, which in 2011 paid the International Olympic Committee (IOC) $775 million for television rights to the Sochi Olympics, and another $3.6 billion for the 2016, 2018 and 2020 Olympics, handle this story?” Gregory asked.

When playwright Harvey Fierstein raised the question weeks ago on “All In with Chris Hayes,” Hayes ridiculed the idea, asking incredulously whether Fierstein thought there should be some “cut-rate Olympics” in another part of the world.

At the end of her show Thursday, Maddow said, “Now Russia is moving on to the next step. The legislative calendar has been set for them to debate the new bill which would forcibly remove kids from existing families if the parents in those families are gay. You will stripped of your custody rights of your own kids if the Russian government thinks you are gay. The debate on that bill its set to start in February. The Russian Olympics are set to start in February. That should be interesting.”

Watch the video, embedded via MSNBC, below:

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David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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