Wednesday, September 11, 2013

#StonewallSochi #SingSochi

An athlete boycott of the Sochi Olympics was never going to happen. Let's be clear about that. Yes, Harvey Fierstein's op-ed piece in The New York Times comparing the anti-gay laws and ugly rhetoric in Russia to the anti-Semitic rants of the Nazi's before the 1936 Games was compelling.

As if a compelling argument actually mattered.

We all get what matters: Money. Obscene amounts of money have been made and will be made in these Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014. And that's why there won't be a national boycott. Money always trumps human dignity. But we already knew that, didn't we?

And hey, the IOC says Russia has assured everyone that it won't arrest athletes or fans during the Games. The real horror, brutality and inhumanity will be saved only for its own citizens. So there's really no need for the world to care or even notice. Move along, people, nothing to see here ...

So what are those of good conscience to do about these Games, which will be held in a frightening country where athletes will try to compete at their best while under the threat of jail or expulsion if they offer a statement of support to the oppressed? For the athletes, gay or straight, it's a matter of survival: Play your games and win your medals, hold your tongue and get the hell out of there as fast as you can. (And if you want to make a statement, don't show up at the closing ceremonies).

As for the rest of us? That's the question asked by Matthew Breen, Editor-in-Chief of The Advocate. What can the world do?

Stonewall Sochi. I don't mean violence, I mean protest. Hold a rally in cities all over the world. And do it on the night that would draw both the most attention to the horror and the most focus away from the false joy of these Games. Do it on Feb. 7, the same night as the opening ceremonies.

Stonewall was a turning point. Sochi can be a turning point, too.

And say, what do you think might happen if on the same night the opening ceremonies are held -- when TV ratings skyrocket and advertisers get their best exposure -- another event of equal magnitude took place? How about a once-in-a-lifetime concert to bring awareness of the victims of anti-gay violence not only in Russia, but worldwide?

No, it can't be just any concert. It has to be a gathering of greatness that can rival the grandness of the opening ceremonies. Sir Paul and Mick. Sir Elton and Bruce. Jay-Z and Beyoncé. U2 and Lady Gaga. And Cher. Definitely Cher. Maybe they can get Pepsi and Burger King to sponsor it.

It would take a show that big, broadcast worldwide, for it to be heard by Russia, the IOC, the USOC, NBC, Coca-Cola, General Electric, McDonald's and every other sponsor that -- inconceivably -- has agreed to look the other way to sheer brutality while peddling their products and playing their games.

Here's the question: Would a collection of legends be willing to stand up for their gay friends and relatives, for gay athletes and for gay Russians -- for the oppressed, beaten, jailed and killed everywhere -- and make a statement of support while the whole world is watching?

#StonewallSochi. #SingSochi.

And once that concert ends? Do the only thing left to do. Make a statement to all of the people who care more about money than people. Let's make it about money, too. Their money. Their do-nothing advertisers. Their TV ratings.

Hit 'em where it hurts. Boycott.

I'm not just talking about McDonalds and Coca-Cola, although by all means please try to drink Pepsi and eat Burger King for two weeks.

More importantly, don't watch the Games. You have 50 million channels and the interwebs to occupy your time instead. Find something else to do.

Yes, I know, fan boycotts of sporting events never work. There's little organization or leadership and most fans are easily appeased. Entertain them and they'll shut up and watch.

And that's the key to making an Olympic boycott actually work. Fans need to be given something else to watch. So let's entertain them on the night of the opening ceremonies and shine a light on what's going on in Russia. Let them know that by watching the Games, they are turning their backs on the oppressed and supporting that brutality. Send a message to the world.

#StonewallSochi. #SingSochi.

Pass it along.

(updated 9-14-2013)

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