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Amaechi: Athletes must defend human rights

amaechif1.jpgJohn Amaechi, the former NBA player who came out as gay last year, is Amnesty International’s Olympics ambassador and he is urging athletes to speak out on behalf of human rights at this summer’s Beijing Games.

"I would encourage athletes not to distract themselves by burying themselves in the nuance and facts and figures and legislation of China, but simply to acknowledge that being an ambassador for human rights in China is the most Olympian thing to do. Anything less than that is not being a true Olympian, no matter the color of the medal that you hold up," he told the Guardian of London.

China has been criticized in the West for its human rights record and the Olympic torch run was dominated by publicity over China’s treatment of Tibet. The International Olympic Committee is nervous that athletes will raise human right concerns and anger China, which is very sensitive about what it sees as Western interference in its affairs. But Amaechi, who will also work the Games for the BBC, says athletes have a duty to speak out when they see injustice.

"I've read the Olympic charter and when you read it, it is quite clear that it expects from athletes something more than being hugely talented beasts of burden," he said. "It expects that sport be more than entertainment of the masses. It demands that they are intended to be a tool for wholesale change in the lives of individuals and groups. … If you have the power to make the world better then that's something you should do, particularly when it is directly in line with your charter. To ignore those ideals so as not to embarrass a host compromises the movement."

--Jim Buzinski

Related: Amaechi’s article on his appointment.

Hat tip to Pink News.