Open Phones: Russian Olympics Protest

Russia's anti-gay laws have sparked protest around the world (including at the recent track and field championships) and calls that the US should boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics in that country. But many athletes -- even those who actively support gay rights -- say that it's not fair to deny them their dream of competing in the Olympics at the expense of making a political point. What do you think? What role do Olympic athletes have when it comes to this issue? Call 212-433-9692 or comment below.

These laws, which do not expressly prohibit being homosexual, criminalize public discussion of homosexuality, especially with foreigners. As an American, I believe in freedom of speech and equality for all, and therefore disagree with the laws that Russia has put in place. Given that I am currently residing in London, I will say, once again, that our LGBT neighbors deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. However, as an American who is about to reside in Moscow for 12 days, this will be the last time I will mention this subject.

I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation. Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend's house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.

This idea does go one step deeper, though. I am going to Russia to represent my country on the track. This civilized battlefield is where the best athletes in the world come together to metaphorically destroy each other. In the battle of the men's 800 meters, there are no weapons, no generals, no politicians involved, and actually very little contact at all. What you will find are 50 men who all want to become the next world champion, and who will figuratively and literally bleed to do so.

I will say now what I said before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, when people asked me how I felt competing in a foreign country with questionable human rights standards: The playing field is not a place for politics. In a world rife with never-ending political battles, let the playing field be where we set aside our differences and compete for national pride and the love of sport.

-- Two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds on his decision to compete in Russia. Read the full piece at Runner's World.