(WASHINGTON) -- The delegation President Obama has chosen to represent the United States at the winter Olympics in Sochi, “represents the diversity that is the United States,” the White House said Tuesday. The delegation includes tennis legend Billie Jean King, perhaps America’s most prominent gay athlete and a long-time gay rights advocate. Although the White House won’t say it is sending a message of protest regarding Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law, Billie Jean King told USA Today earlier this year that she hopes athletes will use their platform at the Olympics to protest the law.
At a White House press conference in August, President Obama rejected calls that the U.S. boycott the winter Olympics, but made clear his strong opposition to Russia’s anti-gay policies.
Here is the complete statement from White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, issued Tuesday:
President Obama is extremely proud of our U.S. athletes and looks forward to cheering them on from Washington as they compete in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit. He knows they will showcase to the world the best of America – diversity, determination, and teamwork.
While the President’s schedule doesn’t allow him to travel to Sochi, in his stead, the President has asked a high-level delegation, led by former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and featuring former Olympian Brian Boitano and former Olympic Coach Billie-Jean King, to represent the United States Government at the opening ceremonies. Deputy Secretary of State Burns and former Olympians Caitlin Cahow, Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair will represent the U.S. at the closing ceremonies.
The U.S. Delegation to the Olympic Games represents the diversity that is the United States. All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism, and sports. We are proud of each and every one of them and think they will serve as great ambassadors of the United States to the Olympic Games.
In a statement, Billie Jean King said she is, "deeply honored to be named to the United States’ Presidential Delegation for the opening ceremonies at the 2014 Olympic Games this February in Sochi."
"I can’t wait to get to Russia to support the American team and to be part of one of the greatest global events of our time," the statement reads. "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."
The delegation to the opening and closing ceremonies, which will be led by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, respectively, is made up of several Olympic athletes, including figure skater Brian Boitano, speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden, and another openly gay athlete -- women’s ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow. It will not include the president, first lady or the vice president.
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