Olympic figure skater-turned-NBC commentator Johnny Weir will be working the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February. He will not, however, be saying much about the country’s recently enacted law banning expression of “nontraditional” sexuality.
“I risk jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not the place to make a political statement,” Weir tells The New York Times. “I’m not a politician and I don’t really talk about politics. You don’t have to agree with the politics, but you have to respect the culture of a country you are visiting.”
Weir’s decision to steer clear of the controversy has angered some gay activists, and even his husband, Victor Voronov (who is Russian-American), wants him to speak out.
“The gay community has not reacted well to me because some people think it’s my responsibility to be an activist,” Weir says. “They’re expecting me to hate Russia because I haven’t been given equal rights in Russia.”
Weir is in fact something of a celebrity in Russia, which according to the Times is a nation that “adores” figure skaters. He also speaks and reads Russian and has visited the country a number of times.
“It’s pretty obvious that I’ve been gay my whole life,” he tells the paper. “I don’t need to break any laws or wear a rainbow pin to show people that I support gay rights. I think I’ll do that just by being in Sochi and supporting our people there and know they are not alone.”