American runner Nick Symmonds unsettled some fans earlier this month, when the Olympian and long-time gay champion wrote that he would not speak out against Olympic host country's Russia's anti-gay laws. "The playing field is not a place for politics," Symmonds, 29, wrote in Runner's World at the time. "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." He would put his activism on hold while overseas, he said.
It's understandable that an athlete would want to avoid punishment during one of his or her biggest career moments, but considering Symmonds's past support for equality, including posing for the NOH8 campaign, his remarks were a disappointment to many. His latest comments, however, may make up for it.
Yesterday, after winning a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow, Symmonds said he dedicated his win to gay and lesbian fans, and went on to take a slightly more vociferous stand against the Russian regime.
"As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them," he told the Russian news network RIA Novosti. "Whether you're gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there's anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will… shy of getting arrested." This the first time an American athlete has criticized the anti-gay Russian laws while in Russia.
Later, speaking with American ABC News, Symmonds explained himself a bit more. "I disagree with their laws and I disagree with their views," he said. "I'm trying to tread that fine line of being respectful as a guest in this country and also speaking against some serious injustices that I see. As adamant as I am about this issue, I don't know what me sitting in jail is good for."
Do you agree? Activists are sent to jail for protesting injustice all the time; is the playing field all that different?
(Image via Getty Images)