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Iconic LGBT Activist Cleve Jones Responds To Frank Bruni’s NYT’s Column On Sochi Boycott

Cleve JonesOn Tuesday New York Times writer Frank Bruni wrote a lengthy piece on the ongoing Russian Vodka boycott and the calls from LGBT activist to move or boycott  2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

Bruni wrote in part:

[Harvey] Fierstein has floated a boycott of the Olympics. There’s precedent. Meantime, gay bars in the United States and other countries have heeded a plea from L.G.B.T. rights advocates to remove Russian vodka from their shelves, in the hope that economic pain will equal legislative pressure on Russia to repeal its anti-gay laws. Advocates have trained their ire on Stolichnaya vodka, or Stoli, in particular.

But that focus exposes a flaw in the vodka boycott, well intentioned but imprecise. “While Stoli’s ingredients — wheat, rye and raw alcohol — are Russian, the vodka itself is distilled in Latvia and distributed in the U.S. by William Grant & Sons USA, an American subsidiary of a Scottish corporation,” a recent post on Time magazine’s Web site noted.

As for an American boycott of the Olympics, it would punish athletes who’ve been training and dreaming and sacrificing for years. It might redirect the conversation from how Russia treats gays to whether the United States overreacted. And it would close off the kind of statement that American athletes have a thrilling opportunity to orchestrate. Maybe that statement isn’t a flag but “a visible pin, an armband, a bracelet,” as Greg Louganis, an openly gay diver who won medals for the United States in three Olympics, recently suggested. Maybe it’s something small stitched into the uniforms. 

Well that did not sit well with longtime LGBT activist Cleve Jones who posted about Bruni commentary on his Facebook page:

“This is quite possibly the dumbest commentary I’ve yet read on this issue. Even if Bruni’s fairy tale choreography were permitted by the IOC, it would not be broadcast in Russia.  Bruni also lies when he states that Stolichnaya is distilled in Latvia and distributed in the US by William Grant and Sons.

Wrong. Just flat out not true, Frank. 

Russia is descending into fascism. Gay people, immigrants and Jews are being subjected to increasingly violent attacks. Freedoms of speech and assembly are restricted. The parallels with Germany in the 1930s are obvious and chilling.

Bruni’s response: Let’s wave little rainbow flags, but “not ostentatiously high.”

Seventy-seven years ago the IOC and the international community allowed the Games to go forward in Berlin. US corporations like Sochi sponsor Coke continued to do business with the Nazi regime. The Games burnished Hitler’s reputation at home and abroad and set the stage for what was to follow.

Seventy-seven years ago, Jesse Owens did strike Olympic Gold in the Nazi Olympics. It was a great moment for him and athletes of all races. And then what happened?

Owens went home, ignored by his own government. And, two years later in Germany, the exterminations began.

The situation in Russia is beyond dire. The world’s response surely must be greater than wearing “a visible pin, an armband, a bracelet” or “something small stitched into the uniforms.”

It’s well past time that the IOC and others learn that “sport” does not supercede “human rights”.  They made that mistake in Berlin and after they left 6 million Jews and 4 million Poles, Gypsies and Homosexuals were killed.

And for those of you who don;t know your world history. Hitler actually came up with his ideas to kill Jews from Russian Czars & pogroms in Russian.

You would think that that the IOC would learn from their past mistakes.

 

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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