USA Olympian fires back at Pence after presidential invite


Gus Kenworthy on twitter

U.S. Olympian Adam Rippon smiles while fellow athlete Gus Kenworthy kisses him on the cheek the morning of Feb. 9 in Pyeong-Chang, South Korea.

Josie Hafer, Opinion Assistant

With the 2018 winter Olympics season here, it becomes difficult to avoid the onslaught of Olympic commercials, posters and sponsorships. However, with large sporting events often come large scandals.

Adam Rippon, a figure skater for Team USA, has been making headlines. It begins with Vice President Mike Pence extending an invitation to meet with Rippon, which the athlete later denied. It should be known that Rippon is the first openly gay athlete to medal in winter Olympics for Team USA.

According to The Washington Post, when questioned about refusing Pence’s offer, Rippon responded with, “The same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it.”

Pence denied making the invitation, but research of several news outlets confirmed the invitation.

The tangle then extended on to Twitter Jan. 20, where Rippon has made it inherently clear that he plans to use his platform to empower people who feel as though they do not have a voice.

“I personally have nothing to say to Mike Pence. I didn’t speak up for myself. It’s important to give a voice to those who feel they don’t have one,” Rippon tweeted Jan. 20.

Openly LGBTQ+ athletes are becoming more well-known now more than ever, and the Olympics are no exception. Alongside Rippon are athletes such as Gus Kenworthy, freestyle skier, and Eric Radford, figure skater.

During Thursday night’s opening ceremony in Pyeong-Chang, South Korea, Kenworthy played the part of the unofficial LGBTQ+ flag bearer, waving a signature rainbow flag as he walked the Olympic track. According to The Chicago Tribune, Kenworthy hopes to edge sports “closer to the point where being a gay athlete is no longer even an issue.”

Kenworthy has also confronted homophobia face-on by means of social media, with a recent tweet reading, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.”

Brittany Bowe, Team USA’s only publicly out LGBTQ+ woman, is competing in Pyeong-Chang in four speed-skating events as well as a team event. Bowe is in no way shy about her long-term, long-distance relationship with fellow athlete Manon Kamminga, a Dutch inline skater.

However, with more diversity in sports than ever, bigotry is becoming glaringly obvious. John Moody, an executive editor and vice president for Fox News, had voiced his unease with gay athletes in a statement reading, “The U.S. Winter Olympic team is too gay to win. If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work.”

Moody’s barely-concealed intolerance was made even clearer when he questioned if Team USA athletes were selected based on skill or expertise rather on race, sexuality, or other apparent publicity-boosters. His statement read: “Were our Olympians selected because they’re the best at what they do, or because they’re the best publicity for our current obsession with having one each from Column A, B and C?”

Hate to burst Moody’s bubble, but he’s actually just a narrow-minded bigot with no evidence to back his far-fetched claim.
Still, actions are being taken to face sports-centered homophobia head on. Organizations such as Athlete Ally and LGBT SportSafe are taking measures to educate athletic communities at all levels. The goal is to aim for understanding of obstacles to inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in sports, often by means of trainings attended by major leagues and institutions such as the NBA, NCAA, and MLB.