Billie Jean King named to U.S. Olympic opening ceremony delegation by President Obama

Matthew Stockman

The openly gay tennis legend is sent against backdrop of anti-gay Russian laws. Neither the president, first lady, nor vice president will attend.

Billie Jean King, the tennis icon, and former Olympic hockey player Caitlin Cahow, both openly lesbian, have been named by President Obama to the official U.S. delegation attending the February opening ceremonies for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Figure skater Brian Boitano came out publicly two days after the announcement. The choices are powerful given the backdrop of the anti-gay legislation passed in Russia.

USA TODAY columnist Christine Brennan called the selection of King "genius" and ran this quote from her earlier this year:

Nearly three months ago, in a conversation with USA TODAY Sports' Kelly Whiteside, King talked about the general hesitancy U.S. athletes expressed regarding the law.

"Sometimes I think we need a John Carlos moment," she said, referring to the U.S. track star who was expelled from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics along with American sprinter Tommie Smith for protesting racial discrimination.

"I think there's watershed moments, benchmarks. I would hope the majority of the athletes would speak out. It's a great platform."

Then she sighed. "I wish I was 21 again and in the Olympics."

Update: The San Francisco Chronicle wrote about figure skater Brian Boitano being gay, though he has never come out publicly. It would be powerful for him to come out in Sochi, which would make at least 30% of the delegation LGBT.

Additionally, neither President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, nor Vice President Obama will be attending: Says USA TODAY:

It will not include the president, first lady or the vice president, all who headed the previous four Olympic delegations, or a cabinet secretary, only a former one. This marks the first Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Summer Games that a U.S. president, vice president, first lady or former president has not been a member of the delegation for the opening ceremony, which will be Feb. 7 in Sochi.

Here is the official White House press release on the delegations:

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation. 

Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 7, 2014. 

The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Opening Ceremony.

  • The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano, President of the University of California, will lead the delegation.
  • The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.
  • The Honorable Robert L. Nabors, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.
  • The Honorable Billie Jean King, Member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Mr. Brian A. Boitano, Olympic gold medalist, figure skating.

Presidential Delegation to the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 23, 2014.

The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Closing Ceremony.

  • The Honorable William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State, will lead the delegation.
  • The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.
  • Ms. Bonnie Blair, five-time Olympic gold medalist and one-time bronze medalist, speed skating.
  • Ms. Caitlin Cahow, Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist, women’s ice hockey.
  • Dr. Eric Heiden, five-time Olympic gold medalist, speed skating.

Note: The original version of this story did not name Cahow as a lesbian since we could find no sourcing, but we have since confirmed that she is publicly out.

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