UPDATE: After refusing to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, United States figure skater Adam Rippon said he’ll also be boycotting a visit to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump after the Olympics.
The boycott, he told reporters, is an effort to “support my community.”
Although the athlete has not yet been invited, he said that he would decline an invitation and instead “do something to help my community."
One of the ideas he is considering is planning his own event in support of gay rights. He said he wants to do something “positive and not just stay at home.”
Previously, Rippon said that as a gay athlete, he didn’t feel welcome in Trump’s White House.
On Sunday, Rippon helped the USA team to take home a bronze medal in team figure skating.
It’s often seen as customary for Olympians to be invited to the White House after the games for a reception. Rippon said that declining an invitation would send a strong message of disapproval to the Trump administration, an administration that holds values that are adamantly opposed to his.
Whatever happens next, it’s clear that Trump could risk looking even less tolerant if he chooses to respond to Rippon as Pence did before, saying that the athlete’s criticism is misguided.
As Vice President Mike Pence prepares to arrive in South Korea ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, United States Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon has refused an opportunity to meet him.
Pence, who’s visiting the country to lead the U.S. delegation to the games opening ceremony, tried setting up a meeting with Rippon after he heard the figure skater had criticized him.
Previously, 28-year-old Rippon accused Pence of funding gay conversion therapy in a USA Today interview. Learning about the Olympian’s comments, Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, told reporters that the accusation was false.
“The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes,” Farah said. “This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact. Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.”
After issuing the statement, Pence then tried to schedule a meeting with Rippon, which did not materialize. Refusing to meet with the vice president, Rippon told reporters that he was focusing on training for the Olympics.
“I’m not trying to pick a fight with the vice president of the United States,” he said.
Still, the openly gay athlete is leaving the possibility of a future meeting open, saying that after the games, he might reconsider.
“If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon said. “He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump. … But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”
The comments about gay conversion therapy stem from a statement from 2000 on Pence's campaign website that said that “[r]esources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
While the term “gay conversion therapy” wasn’t explicitly used, it is widely believed that Pence was referring to the practice. After Farah was asked to explain what he meant in the 2000 statement, she didn’t answer reporters.
Rippon said he does not want to meet the vice president during the meet-and-greet event featuring the U.S. delegation and athletes before the opening ceremony. As he’s part of the team figure skating competition, Rippon might have to miss the event anyway, making his absence less awkward. Regardless, Rippon did not appear to be willing to make a sacrifice.
“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person, but that they think that they’re sick,” the figure skater said. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that."
On Twitter, several users supported the athlete, even politicians.
Yes. He doesn't owe pence a thing. Not one thing.— Suzi (@SoozleMcDoozle) February 7, 2018
Good for Adam Rippon. If Pence thinks he's misunderstood about LGBT rights, he can make a speech, not explain it person by person. https://t.co/N6I4BIjIDw— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) February 7, 2018
Rippon said that he would also decline visiting the White House if President Donald Trump invited him after the Olympics, USA Today reported.
While Pence has yet to explain what he meant if he claims Rippon’s accusations aren’t factual, it’s a relief to know that Rippon is not being kept from participating because of his criticism of the vice president and the current administration.
Banner/thumbnail credit: REUTERS/John Sibley & REUTERS/Toru Hanai