Human rights groups urge NBC, Olympic sponsors to shine light on LGBT hostility in Russia

BY Chelsea Coatney  February 5, 2014 at 3:18 PM EST

Protesters in Madrid rally against Russian anti-gay laws in August, in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. On Wednesday U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor AT&T published a blog condemning the Russian law. Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Protesters in Madrid rally against Russian anti-gay laws in August, in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. On Wednesday U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor AT&T published a blog condemning the Russian law. Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images


Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assurances that gay and lesbian athletes and fans should feel welcome in Sochi, human rights groups continue to voice concerns about the anti-gay propaganda law Putin signed last July.

Human Rights Watch recently released a video highlighting the violence that gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people are subjected to in Russia. The video accompanied an HRW report explaining that members of the Russian LGBT community have been “attacked, abducted, beaten, harassed, threatened and psychologically abused” in public places in multiple Russian cities. HRW says that many victims are afraid to report the attacks due to a lack of action on the part of Russian police and fear of further harassment.

Another human rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, announced today that they will be closely following NBC’s reporting of LGBT issues in Russia during the network’s 17-day coverage of the Winter Olympic Games, with daily reports being posted at HRC.org/Russia. According to HRC, NBC has already committed to reporting on the daily harassment, discrimination and violence LGBT Russians are subjected to.

HRC has also reached out to the corporate sponsors of the International Olympic Committee, the IOC, urging them to “act now to … halt the rising tide of discrimination, harassment and threats against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.” HRC President Chad Griffin called on sponsors such as Coca-Cola, GE and McDonalds to denounce the violence against the LGBT community in Russia, use their marketing resources to build awareness of LGBT equality and urge the IOC to reject future bids from countries that have laws restricting the freedom of LGBT citizens and their supporters.

U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors are also speaking out, with AT&T condemning the Russian law Wednesday in a blog post. In response to HRC’s open letter to IOC sponsors, the telecommunications giant said that they “support HRC’s principles and … stand against Russia’s anti-LGBT law.” AT&T is not an IOC sponsor.