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How NBC Plans to cover Russia’s crackdown on its gay citizens during the 2014 Sochi Olympics

JULY 29, 2013

As Travis Waldron has reported in our sports section, Russia’s crack-down on gay sexuality, including recent deportations of Dutch tourists, are a warning sign of what could be a significant problems for the Winter Olympic Games next year. Much as the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008 took place in a country with rampant and long-standing human rights problems, some of which occurred as the city cleared space to build its Olympic stadiums, the Sochi games will occur in a place where the treatment of LGBT people illustrates the lack of an international consensus on the full humanity of the world’s gay citizens. In China, Bob Costas sharply questioned then-President George W. Bush about the host country’s human rights record. But questions remain about whether NBC would be up for a repeat performance.

At the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday, Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC’s sports group attempted to head off questions about Russia’s homophobic laws and practices by suggesting that “We will address those issues as they are relevant at the time of the Games. As has always been done by NBC’s coverage, we will address those, again, as they are relevant at the time of the Games, and we cannot wait to get to Sochi.”

But what does that actually mean? When my fellow critics pushed Lazarus, he suggested that if Russia abides by its promise to the International Olympic Committee that its recent anti-gay legislation won’t be applied to athletes, tourists, or journalists who are visiting to participate in, observe, or cover the Games, the law might not be a news story.

“The IOC has addressed it with the Russian government and has assured athletes, fans, media that there will not be any issues regarding what takes place during the Games,” he said. “So we take the IOC that is watching this very closely and they’re monitoring this. We will address it if it becomes an issue. Right now they have a law that is the law of their land, and governments across the world have different laws, but as long as it doesn’t affect us or the athletes, we will again acknowledge that it exists, but I don’t know what it’s going to mean to us yet…If it is still their law and it is impacting any part of the Olympics Games, we will make sure that we acknowledge it and recognize it. We as a company, obviously, believe in equality, opportunity for all. We don’t believe that the Games are in the spirit of the law that they’ve passed, and we’re hopeful that the Olympic spirit will win out.”

I’m glad to hear Lazarus suggest that if the law is still on the books, it’ll be at least mentioned on air. But the suspension of the law for the Olympics, but not elsewhere in Russia, is in and of itself an important story. As Travis has been writing for months, one of the ways that FIFA and the IOC sell events like the World Cup and the Olympics to potential host countries is to suggest that they’re valuable engines of economic development. And just as it’s important to assess that claim critically, it’s worth covering the fact that the Olympics can win temporary, and geographically limited, improvements in human rights in the countries where they’re located every two years, but that those effects are minimal, and aimed more at avoiding international ire than making actual cultural changes. The very fact that Olympic participants might not be affected is precisely why it’s important for NBC to cover Russia’s gay rights record, and to choose a camera angle that’s wider than Sochi and the Olympic facilities themselves.

by Anonymousreply 2008/02/2013

We will tell you what you can Putin the broadcast and what you cannot.

by Anonymousreply 107/29/2013

Would love to see a repeat performance, like the famed Jesse Owens at "Hitler's games," of top gay athletes openly contradicting Putin's "ideals."

by Anonymousreply 207/29/2013

I will never forget how the Olympic Committee took the Gay Olympics to court so they would not use the Olympic name...hence the Gay Games.

They were such assholes.

by Anonymousreply 307/29/2013

I didn't know that, R3. Wow.

by Anonymousreply 407/29/2013

I think a few straight athletes will make shows of solidarity.

I'm sure Dan Savage will poke his head into this with another brilliant suggestion!

by Anonymousreply 507/29/2013

(r5) Oh, for sure. He milked that It's Get Better for as much fame and money as he could.

by Anonymousreply 607/29/2013

Were I the King of NBC, I'd be even more worried about the proximity of Chechen terrorists. Sochi is immediately adjacent to some very turbulent landscape.

by Anonymousreply 707/29/2013

I wish every nation would incorporate the rainbow flag into their opening ceremonies uniforms. I hope that each nation will carry a rainbow flag in addition to the flag of their country.

Could you imagine what it would look like if the opening ceremonies were awash with rainbow flags? That would be amazing.

by Anonymousreply 807/29/2013

[quote]I wish every nation would incorporate the rainbow flag into their opening ceremonies uniforms.

That would be fantastic!

by Anonymousreply 907/31/2013

There's an online petition asking NBC to use Rachel Maddow as Human Rights Correspondent for its Olympics coverage. I think that would be very interesting.

by Anonymousreply 1007/31/2013

yes! put Rachel in the middle of that but give her some damn bodyguards cuz she'll need them.

by Anonymousreply 1107/31/2013

R8 I imagine that anything remotely identifiable with the rainbow flag will be confiscated by the Russian authorities at the borders and airports.

by Anonymousreply 1207/31/2013

I'm glad someone started this thread. My partner still turns on The Today Show in the morning. I really only focus when Natalie reads the "news". I've not heard any mention of this.

Does anyone know if ANY aspects of this (as pertains to Olympics or Putin's new hate laws OR the gay-baiting of Russian teens) has been getting coverage on NBC?

by Anonymousreply 1308/02/2013

A lone gay activist was attacked by a group of former Russian paratroopers in St. Petersburg today, and then they attacked the Police who were trying to protect the activist they had in custody.

It's only getting worse. Let's see if Johnny(Russia Is Great!) Weir cries like an eight year old girl when he gets his sashaying ass thrown in jail.

by Anonymousreply 1408/02/2013

If Matt Lauer wants to spectacularly redeem himself, he will put on that Jennifer Lopez green halloween dress with an open slit going all the way down to his butt, and a sign hanging off his back that reads "Putin the Penis".

by Anonymousreply 1508/02/2013

I think the pink triangle might be effectively employed by sympathetic athletes regardless of orientation.

by Anonymousreply 1708/02/2013

NBC does not give a shit about this issue. They will not mention it on air during the Olympics.

by Anonymousreply 1808/02/2013

You might want to check out the thread titled: "PETITION: Ask NBC To Add Rachel Maddow As Human Rights Correspondent In Olympics Coverage" and please sign the petition.

It's not my thread and I don't know how to post a link, but the whole issue with Russia's horrifying anti-gay laws are something we should be able to come together on and speak out against.

by Anonymousreply 1908/02/2013

[quote]I wish every nation would incorporate the rainbow flag into their opening ceremonies uniforms.

Doesn't everyone have to go through Customs? Any Gay "propaganda" will probably be confiscated.

by Anonymousreply 2008/02/2013
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