Billie Jean King: “First and foremost, it’s about the athletes”

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Tennis legend Billie Jean King made her first public comments about the Sochi Winter Olympics on NBC’s “Today” show on January 9, saying, “first and foremost, it’s about the athletes,” as the Games “could be their one moment in time.”

Video link below.

In the interview with host Matt Lauer, she added that Obama’s choice to send three openly gay athletes as part of the US delegation was the only statement needed in response to Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law.

She explained, “I think President Obama showed it. He’s elected and selected three openly gay athletes [to show]we are part of America, we are what America looks like.”

President Obama chose to send King, hockey player Caitlin Cahow, and figure skater Brian Boitano, all of whom are gay, as a part of the US delegation. Obama has stated that he intended to send a message to Russia, which continues to face international criticism of their anti-gay laws.

Last week Boitano told NBC that Obama’s decision inspired him to come out publicly, but that he wished to exercise caution against direct action in Sochi.

King also expressed her respect for Obama’s decision, stating, “I think President Obama has done an amazing job on promoting diversity and inclusion. He has been the all-time President for doing that and he’s showing the Russians [that]everybody belongs in the United States of America.”

She also clarified that there is a rule allowing athletes to answer accordingly when asked a question by the media but “they’re not supposed to demonstrate or show any protesting” throughout the Games.

President Vladimir Putin, despite continuing to defend the law, has allowed for “protest zones” in certain areas of the Olympic grounds.

In 2009 Obama presented King with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work on equal rights. She has been an avid campaigner for gender equality in tennis.

Watch the Today show clip here.

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