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Obama Picks Two Gay Athletes For Russian Olympics Delegation

In what is being considered a jab at Russia’s anti-gay policies, President Barack Obama included two openly gay athletes as part of the delegation sent to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

“President Obama is extremely proud of our U.S. athletes and looks forward to cheering them on from Washington,” said a statement from the White House, which said the president will be too busy to attend. “He knows they will showcase to the world the best of America — diversity, determination and teamwork.”

Tennis icon Billy Jean King and Olympic ice hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow will join the delegation. University of California President and former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is also a part of the U.S. delegation, as well as White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

Olympic medalists Bonnie Blair, Eric Heiden and Brian Boitano are also scheduled as members of the delegation.

Notably absent from the delegation are the president himself, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama, making it the first time since the 2000 Summer Olympics that president, vice president and first lady miss the opening ceremonies.

Obama has previously has addressed Russia’s anti-gay stance in the past, particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin’s laws banning open discussion of gay rights near children. “Nobody’s more offended than me,” said Obama, expressing his support for the gay community.

Andre Banks, executive director of gay rights group All Out, praised Obama’s message. “It’s hard to look at this delegation without seeing it as a criticism of Putin’s anti-gay laws,” he said. “What it’s doing is showing the true power of the Olympics, the ability to move people, to change people’s minds and open them up to new ways of thinking. The delegation is shining a light on the values of the Olympics.”

About the author

Gary Bryan is an industrial marketing manager by daytime and political and social issues writer by night. You can also find his editorials at Mic.com.