Former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has joined a growing chorus of voices condemning Russia’s ban on gay propaganda, saying the country should be prevented from hosting any further international competitions as long as the “archaic” law remains in place.
Burke, whose late son, Brendan, received international attention when he came out in November of 2009, has become one of the most high profile voices in the North American LGBT community in recent years and will serve as the director of player personnel for the U.S. Olympic hockey team at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
While Burke opposes a full-on boycott of the Games, he told TSN on Friday that he plans to fulfill his Team USA duties while staging his own personal protest of the new law.
“People should make it known that this type of bias can’t take place,” Burke said. “But I think a boycott is misplaced. A boycott punishes the athletes. If we say we’re not going in the face of these laws, I think that punishes every Canadian, American, Argentinian athlete that’s prepared so hard for these Games. I don’t think it’s appropriate.
“The appropriate measure should be that as long as these laws are on the books, Russia should not be awarded another international competition. In the meantime, they’ve got to guarantee everybody’s safety.”
Burke added that the International Olympic Committee also needs “ironclad” assurances from the Russian government that athletes, staff and fans will be “not only free from harassment but free from any type of prosecution” under those laws.
“I think they’re going to get the assurances they need and make sure that it’s safe for everybody,” Burke said.
The comments came on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning demonstrations and rallies in Sochi before, during and after the Olympics next February, a move aimed at limiting protests against the law.
Burke, however, advised any athletes that want to take a stand to join him in making their views known while in the country.
“If you really want to make a difference, when you pack your stuff, pack a rainbow pen,” Burke said. “Give an interview over there that says you’re pro-gay and that you support the LGBT community. That’s what I’m going to do.”