It seems as though U.S. President Obama is trying to test the limits of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s homophobia by sending openly gay athletes as delegates to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The first professional athlete to publicly come out of the closet in 1981, former tennis legend Billie Jean King and another openly gay athlete, two-time Olympic hockey player Caitlin Cahow have been included in the U.S. delegation, according to a White House statement.
"The U.S. delegation to the Olympic Games represents the diversity that is the United States," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism and sports."
Read More: Why Do Russians Hate Gays?
Other members include figure skating Olympic champion, Brian Boitano, speed skating Olympians Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden, the current University of California Chancellor Janet Napolitano, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul; White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.
Though the White House declined to say whether it was delivering any message through its selection of the delegation, it’s quite apparent that Obama is sending a strong signal to Russia where a strict anti-gay law was passed under the supervision of Putin in June this year.
Following the ban on homosexuality, gays and LGBT advocates were attacked and humiliated in broad daylight by several vigilantes. A notorious anti-gay group, Occupy Pedophilia, even claimed to be on ‘safari hunting gays and pedophiles’ in September.
Things blew up to the extent that international gay rights campaigners and organizations demanded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) relocate the Winter Olympics to Vancouver, Canada.
The furor was put to rest after the Russian government announced gay athletes competing in next year's winter Olympics will not face any sort of discrimination or disqualification.
In addition to sending gay stars to Russia, top ranking U.S. officials will not be attending the event in Russia. This is in contrast to the U.S. delegation, including Michelle Obama, visiting the 2012 London games and the one to the 2010 winter games in Vancouver, which was headed by Vice President Joe Biden.