Gay footballer Robbie Rogers urges athletes not to boycott Sochi Winter Olympics

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Gay US footballer Robbie Rogers has called on athletes not to boycott the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

The 26-year-old made his comments in a column for USA Today in which he urged people not to “act impulsively by jumping on the boycott bandwagon”

Rogers who is himself a former Olympics participant has added his voice to the debate and has urged fellow athletes to compete to try and pave the way for change in Russia.

He referred to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin and spoke of Jesse Owen’s participation at the event, saying: “had the US boycotted and Jesse Owens had missed the event an important historical teaching moment would have been lost.”

The LA Galaxy star went onto say: “Let’s hope that President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have provided all of us with an international teachable moment. If we take the time to think about how to make that happen and don’t act impulsively by jumping on the boycott bandwagon, perhaps the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia can be remembered instead for moving the ball forward in the fight for equal rights for all people everywhere. That’s my Olympic dream.”

However Rogers did go onto say that he took issue with the recent announcement that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were going to penalise any athlete who went to Sochi with a gay rights symbol arguing that athletes should be “encouraged to carry the symbol of gay pride.”

The stance taken by Rogers differs from that of Stephen Fry who also cited the 1936 Berlin Olympics as an argument in favour of a boycott of the Sochi Games. Mr Fry argued that countries that send athletes shall only lend confidence to President Vladimir’s position.

The IOC has been widely criticised for the lack of action it has taken in protesting Russia over it’s anti-gay legislation with some members including Lamine Diack calling for Russian law to be respected.

The international football governing body FIFA yesterday called on Russia to give “clarification and more details” about the laws ahead of the 2018 World Cup due to take place in the country.

After going public about his sexuality in February, Rogers briefly announced his retirement from the game, but he has since returned to professional football and now plays for Los Angeles Galaxy.

Speaking on his experience coming out as a US player in May, Mr Rogers said: “People have seen how accepting everyone has been of Jason’s and my story. I think it’s going to take just more time and more athletes coming out. It’s all about seeing that it’s not something to be afraid of. It’s not going to hurt your career.”