ESPN host Keith Olbermann opened his Monday show by highlighting early signs of panic from Olympic sponsors that anti-LGBT laws in Russia could cause American advertisers and audiences to effectively boycott the games.
On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member said that sponsors were “afraid” of how demonstrations could impact the games. And the head of the Sochi Olympics asked the IOC to help “stop this campaign and this speculation” people opposing Russia’s stringent anti-LGBT laws.
As Americablog’s John Aravosis put it, the Sochi Olympics was basically asking the IOC to “make the mean gays stop.”
Olbermann noted that “amoral power broker” IOC President Jacques Rogge “carried the Russians water for them” when he promised to remind athletes that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
But the ESPN host pointed out that IOC marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg’s opinion may matter more. Heiberg had reportedly said that the discriminatory Russian laws “could ruin a lot for all of us.”
“There might be an American boycott of the Olympics, but much more likely — at least reading the tea leaves of the remarks of that terrified IOC marketing chairman — much more likely is a boycott by advertisers or the American broadcasts of the Sochi Olympics,” Olbermann observed. “And if the advertisers bail — and they could bail out over the Russian anti-gay laws or the Russian stance on Syria or the quality of NBC’s announcing team, it doesn’t matter which — the Russians are screwed, and the American telecasts are screwed and, in the only thing that matters to the International Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee is screwed.”
In a column last month, Grantland’s Dave Zirin concluded that even the Pope could be arrested if he went to Russia and repeated his recent comments that homosexuals “should not be marginalized” because “we must be brothers.”
Olbermann recalled that the United States decided not to boycott the 1936 Olympics and allowed to African-American Jesse Owens the opportunity to win a gold medal in Berlin as Adolf Hitler looked on. But the U.S. benched Jewish-American Olympian Marty Glickman in deference to Hitler.
“So Owens raced and won, and Hitler didn’t attempt genocide against African-Americans. But Marty Glickman’s relatives in Europe… they wound up in the camps. Whatever we did or did not do in the 1936 Olympics, it does not sound like we made the right call.”
“However, just mentioning them now, just comparing the 2014 Sochi ‘MasterCard’ Olympics to Hitler’s master race Olympics, this has terrified the money,” the ESPN host added. “And the money terrified is money that will do what you want.”
Visa bumped MasterCard as an official sponsor of Olympic events prior to the London games in 2012.
Watch this video from ESPN’s Olbermann, broadcast Sept. 9, 2013.