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U.S. male skaters avoid taking a stand on Russia's anti-gay laws

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Jeremy Abbott
Jeremy Abbott
Matthew Stockman

The passing of anti-gay laws in Russia just months prior to the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics has drawn comment from a lot of athletes worldwide, but some top American male figure skaters aren't among them. The Denver Post caught up with three at this week's "Champs Camp" and found them unwilling to say much of anything.

Actually, Jeremy Abbott did say something and what he said was ridiculous in its logic:

"Russia is hosting us," Abbott said. "I'm not going to go into somebody's house and be like, 'Um, the way you decorate is hideous, and you need to completely redo this or I'm never coming back.' It's a little rude, so I don't want to say bad things about a country that's hosting the world, essentially.

"Maybe I don't agree with their policies, and maybe I don't agree with some things, but that's for them to sort out. My speaking out just makes me look like an ass."

For starters, Abbott looks more like an ass for equating Russia's terrible treatment of its LGBT citizens with criticizing someone's home decor.  As if condemning laws that strip away rights and dignity from a group of people is "rude." Abbott could take a lesson from American runner Nick Symmonds, who had the guts to criticize the new laws while in Moscow for the world track championships and also ripped a Russian pole vaulter who condemned gay people. Or from fellow skater Johnny Weir, who has said he's willing to be arrested if it calls attention to the laws. In contrast, Abbott comes across as clueless and ignorant.

Other skaters contacted by the Denver Post pretty much said they wanted to leave any comments up to the U.S. Olympic Committee. "I think it's important at a time like this for us to have one unified voice as a nation and as a team," said Olympic champion Evan Lysacek. "I'll leave that up to the USOC to comment."

Josh Farris, the current World Junior Champion said, "My opinions are my opinions. I don't want to cause something. My decision is to not say anything."

I don't expect athletes to be political experts or expect them to have to utter an opinion on every issue. But the gay laws and their connection with Sochi -- where Russian President Vladimir Putin banned demonstrations around the Games -- are a matter of human rights and staying silent is not courteous, it is cowardly.