Obama Against Olympic Boycott

PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the East Room of the White House on August 9, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
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President Obama said Friday that he does not support a boycott of the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia over the country's anti-gay propaganda laws.

Some human-rights activists have called for a boycott of the Winter Games in Sochi. But Obama said that barring U.S. athletes from the Olympics would be counterproductive.

"I do not think it's appropriate to boycott the Olympics," the president told reporters at a news conference at the White House.

"Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing in Russia," he added. "One of the things I'm really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes in bringing home the gold, or silver, or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes we're seeing there."

Obama added that if Russia excludes gay and lesbian athletes from their Olympic squad, "It would probably make their team weaker."

The Russian government has sent mixed signals about whether it would enforce its anti-gay propaganda laws on Olympic athletes and spectators. The provision bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," including gay-pride rallies and speaking to people under 18 about homosexuality.

Punishment for foreign nationals could include time in prison, a $3,000 fine and deportation, according to reports.

Obama said this week that he has "no patience" for anti-gays law like Russia's during a recent interview with NBC's Jay Leno.

"I've been very clear that when … you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country," he said.

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