American Apparel isn’t an official sponsor of the Winter Olympics, but it may well have a visible presence at Sochi 2014. The Los Angeles-based clothing company has launched a bright red clothing line called P6, a range of hoodies, sweatshirts and beanie hats (as seen on model Cara Delevingne) that takes its name from principle 6 of the Olympic charter: “Sport does not discriminate on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.” That “otherwise” is being interpreted as sexuality by American Apparel, and gives the clothing label room to skirt Russia’s draconian anti-gay laws, which won’t allow for anything that passes as promotion of homosexuality.
American Apparel said in a statement: “The principle 6 campaign uses the language of the Olympic Charter to allow athletes and fans to speak out against this discrimination during the Sochi Games without violating Russian anti-gay laws or violating the Olympic ban on political speech.” In 2013 Russia passed a law banning the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors – effectively criminalising the open discussion of homosexuality – that has resulted in the arrest of gay rights activists. Incidentally, Russian officials have reportedly chosen Tatu, a pop group whose career was marketed on teenage lesbianism, to perform at the opening ceremony, suggesting Sochi officials have either bowed to international pressure for Russia to soften its attitude to homosexuality or that being gay doesn’t affect Russia’s strong moral compass so as long as it is limited to “lesbians” dressed in school uniforms.
American Apparel’s support for gay rights began back in 2008, with its Legalize Gay campaign in opposition to California’s anti-same-sex marriage Proposition 8. The P6 range launched in December, in association with charities All Out and Athlete Bully, and the company has described the reaction to gay rights merchandise as “extremely positive”. It lists a number of Olympians as ambassadors to the campaign, though it remains to be seen whether those athletes will wear the merchandise during the Games.
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