Two Swedish hockey players who are expected to be chosen to represent their country at the 2014 Winter Olympics spoke out against Russia’s “gay propaganda” law this weekend, adding to a growing list of athletes who are challenging the Russian law six months before the Games begin in Sochi. Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, a certain choice for the Swedish national hockey team, called the law “awful, just awful,” adding, “I think that everyone should be able to be themselves. It’s unbelievable that it can be this way in this time, especially in a big country like Russia.’’
He was joined by Viktor Hedman, a defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning and also a likely member of the Swedish team. “That’s completely wrong, we’re all humans,” Hedman said. “No one should have a say in what way you’re sexually oriented… The Olympics is there for a reason, and everyone should be able to participate and be themselves. Everyone should stand up for homosexuals’ rights.”
Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who was part of the Swedish Olympic team in 2010, declined to comment on the law during a media appearance in Sweden, saying, “I have no problem with talking about some of my views in other contexts, but when it comes to the Olympics, I think you should just focus on the sport.” After facing criticism for not speaking out, Lundqvist tweeted that “if you did some research you would know where I stand on the issue.” He included a link to a video he made for the You Can Play Project, which seeks to rid sports of homophobia, and added, “To me, all people have equal rights for granted. Like the right to choose WHEN, WHERE or how you want to express your opinions.”
Russian runners Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova appeared to stage the most bold protest of the law thus far when they kissed on the podium after winning the gold medal in the 4×400 relay at the Track and Field World Championships in Moscow this weekend. It’s unclear, however, whether Ryzhova and Firova, who also kissed on the track after winning, were protesting the law or simply celebrating. Neither has commented since.
Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro and American runner Nick Symmonds had already protested the law in their own ways at the World Championships. Tregaro painted her fingernails in rainbow colors during competition last week, though she changed it to red after the Swedish Olympic committee warned her that such gestures could land her in trouble with the International Association of Athletic Federations, track and field’s governing body. Symmonds told a Russian media outlet that he was dedicating the silver medal he won in the 800-meters to his LGBT friends.