Skip to main content

Billie Jean King to Russia's LGBT community: You are not alone

By Billie Jean King, tennis legend, Special to CNN
January 28, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • King is one of several gay members of the U.S. Presidential Delegation to Sochi
  • King says Obama's nomination of several gay athletes to the delegation sends a message
  • King says she is concerned with treatment of LGBT community in Russia
  • King: This is not only a gay rights issue but a human rights issue

Editor's note: Billie Jean King is a 2009 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor, and is a member of the U.S. presidential delegation to the Sochi Olympics. King is a former number one professional tennis player who won 39 Grand Slam titles and was the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation and co-founder of World TeamTennis. The opinions expressed here are solely hers.

(CNN) -- Over the last few weeks there has been a great deal of media attention given to the members of the United States' presidential delegation to the Sochi Olympics. Yes, it does include people, like myself, who are openly gay and it also includes delegates who are openly straight. The important part here is the delegation is inclusive and it is representative of the face of America.

Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King

Delegate members Brian Boitano, Caitlin Cahow, Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair are world-class athletes, Olympians who have all won medals when they represented our nation in Olympic competition. Janet Napolitano, William Burns, Ambassador Michael McFaul and Robert Nabors are respected leaders on the world stage. The delegation is an impressive collection of athletes and world leaders and it just so happens some of us are gay.

Our real role in going to Sochi is not to demonstrate or disrupt the Olympics, but to support the men and women of Team USA. I have been traveling to Russia since 1962 and I have complete respect for the Russian people. It is a privilege to be asked to be part of the Presidential Delegation and a personal thrill to be able to watch our Olympic team compete in Sochi.

King to gay Russians: You are not alone
Billie Jean King on "my calling"
Boitano on being openly gay at Sochi
EXCLUSIVE: Medvedev on gay rights

READ MORE: What one gay Russian model thinks of law

Is our nation making a statement on Russia's anti-gay propaganda law by sending gay men and women to represent us in Sochi? Perhaps we are. As Brian Boitano said in a recent interview, "I think the statement is already being made by us being on the delegation — Billie Jean and Caitlin — and us standing together, united as gay people showing that there is freedom of speech and we are successful human beings and athletes. I think that speaks measures."

While I am not planning to protest or demonstrate, I am concerned with the treatment of the LGBT community in Russia and throughout the world. I want the LGBT community living in Russia to know they are not alone and I hope others realize this is not only a gay rights issue, but a global concern for human rights and equality.

As I said when I was named to the U.S. delegation, I hope these Olympics will be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people.

READ MORE: Will social media foil Putin's Sochi plan?

Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing, especially if it may not be the most popular thing. The mere mention of the gay members of our delegation has people talking and you don't make progress in anything without having a constructive dialogue.

I have a saying that 98 percent of winning is showing up. So we will show up in Russia. We will support our athletes and cheer them as loudly as possible. And we will keep the equality conversation alive.

READ MORE: Is Russia about to pass another anti-gay law?

READ MORE: How safe is Sochi? Travelers weigh options

SEE MORE: Interactive map of region's security hotspots

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT