Professional figure skater Johnny Weir has faced criticism from LGBT activists in the last few months over his controversial comments in response to Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law.
Recently, Weir went on the Keith Olbermann show, wearing a Russian military uniform, to be interviewed explaining his stance on boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympics. His distasteful choice of clothing was quickly attacked by gay rights activists who believe he was minimizing the impact of the legislation.
In the interview he said there was “nothing good that can come from a boycott,” because instead of hurting the government, it will affect the athletes competing in the games. He adamantly stated, “I am directly against a boycott of any kind…[because it]will hurt the LGBT community.”
Many other athletes have spoken out to express that they feel a boycott will harm the athletes and not send the right message.
Weir explained that as a resident of New Jersey, he’s still not “considered an equal in this country,” so he believes there is little point in avoiding another country that does not see him as an equal.
Weir is correct in saying that the US has only recently taken affirmative action in promoting gay rights, and considering how much further there is to go, it seems to make sense that he would equate inequality in both countries. However, it is also fact that Russia is now implementing laws that only discriminate further against the LGBT community, whereas the US is (mostly) focused on promoting equality.
Despite Weir’s comments holding weight, activists have struggled with Weir’s pro-athlete over pro-gay stance, as he has stated, “I’m not a politician and I don’t really talk about politics. You don’t have to agree with the politics, but you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.” They believe he has taken a privileged, out of touch stance on the issue, accusing him of putting his income and status in front of his moral duty.
Advocates’ fears of his privileged attitude were emphasized when he said that, “I’ve never had a bad experience in Russia,” he said, “not gotten called a fag or beat up.” He added: “I only see the rosy, golden side. I choose to see Russia in an arrogant, selfish way. I didn’t know what to think about the new law.”
It’s hard to dispute advocates’ reaction to this statement.
Weir, who announced his retirement from figure skating on October 23, 2013, also labeled those who disagree with his views on the boycott “idiots.” On top of that, he has faced further scrutiny for downplaying the impact of the law, saying it was banning “anal sex in front of libraries,” rather than addressing the significant discrimination the law has resulted in for Russian LGBT.
Weir has often made statements in which he contradicted himself, as well as responding to those who oppose his views with comments that could be considered juvenile.
His words have not instilled much hope for any political statements from him at the games in February 2014; NBC recently hired Weir to provide commentary, confirming that Weir will be attending the games in February.