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Billie Jean King: Be careful about protesting at Sochi Olympics

January 09, 2014|By David Wharton
  • Billie Jean King is part of the official U.S. delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Billie Jean King is part of the official U.S. delegation to the 2014 Winter… (Alex Brandon / Associated…)

Billie Jean King says she now believes that athletes should think twice about protesting for gay rights at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The former tennis great, who will be part of the official U.S. delegation, cited Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which bans political demonstrations by participants at the Games.

"I don't want any athlete getting in trouble, although I think they should do anything they want," King told the Associated Press. "Before I knew about Rule 50, I thought it would be sweet to wave some flags or something. But they can get in big trouble and have their medal taken away and also be sent home."

Gay rights have become an issue in Sochi because of recent Russian legislation that criminalizes discussion of "nontraditional sexual relations" in the presence of minors. The law effectively bans gay pride parades and other forms of speech.

President Obama included King, hockey player Caitlin Cahow and figure skater Brian Boitano on the delegation that will attend the Games.

"It sends a strong message that America is very diverse," King said. "We reflect part of America. Maybe we'll be a voice for people who don't feel they can be a voice yet."

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