The Obama administration sent a message to Russia about the country's recent anti-gay legislation by making two openly gay athletes – Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow – part of its 2014 Winter Olympic Games delegation in Sochi.
President Barack Obama also declined to name any members of his current cabinet as part of its delegation, which has been customary in the past, Politico reported.
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King, the retired record-setting tennis star, will take part in the opening ceremonies while Cahow, a member of the medal-winning women's hockey team, will participate in the closing ceremonies.
The Associated Press reported
that it will be the first time since 2000 that the U.S. has not sent a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Games.
Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden led the American delegation at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, while President George W. Bush went to Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
"I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people," King told the Associated Press.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, currently the president of the University of California system, is part of the delegation, which also includes U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, figure skater Brian Boitano, and presidential adviser Rob Nabors.
Russia has faced international pressure because of laws it passed ahead of the Games banning "gay propaganda." USA Today reported
that French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck will not attend the Sochi Games because of this.
The International Olympic Committee told USA Today that the Russian government has promised it would not discriminate against gay athletes and fans at Olympic events.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, Russia's Sochi organization committee president, said that there will be no penalties for anyone who wears rainbow pins or makes other small gestures in response to the legislation.
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