Russia’s law prohibiting what it calls the promotion of homosexuality is one factor some World Cup fans are staying away from the event in that country this summer.

Dan Wiersema, whose group helped organized trips for U.S. fans for the last World Cup, told the New York Times that Russia’s position on LGBT rights is a factor in keeping ticket sales down compared to past events.

“Russia has made it quite clear about its stance on gay fans, which I know gives a lot of our members and U.S. fans concern,” Mr. Wiersema said, referring to a law that outlaws “homosexual propaganda.” In response to those expressing reservations, a Russian Football Union official said last November that, “you can come here and not be fined for expressing feelings. The law is about propaganda to minors.”

Obviously, the main reason for a drop-off in American visitors to this year’s World Cup is the fact that Team U.S.A. failed to qualify. But the fact that a trip organizer has cited Russia’s anti-LGBT climate shows this is not an issue that has faded since the last major world sporting event there, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

English soccer fans are also staying away, with about 50% fewer expected to travel to Russia compared to 2014 in Brazil. Fan violence and racism among some Russian fans are two factors cited, and the deteriorating diplomatic situation between Russia and Britain is not helping.

Russian officials have stressed that rainbow flags will be allowed at the World Cup and that LGBT people will not be targeted. However, an advocacy group that fights discrimination and homophobia in soccer has warned LGBT fans about holding hands in Russia during the World Cup.

A betting site commissioned a poll of Russians in cities where World Cup matches will be held and found that 39% think it’s likely “that someone will attack foreign LGBT people during FIFA World Cup 2018.”

I don’t blame any LGBT fans from skipping the World Cup this year and in 2022 in Qatar, where being gay is illegal. Parts of the world are still not safe for LGBT people, even at sporting events.

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