The debate on gay marriage — whether it should be legal, whether it is right, whether it is normal, whether it is important — is arguably the biggest of the last year, or maybe longer. It rages on with fundamentalist groups citing the Bible to defend their stance and the progressive groups accusing the former of being stuck in another century with their archaic thinking inspired by a “silly” religious text.
It’s been a touchy issue in sports, as well. Across different sports, various athletes have made the decision to come out as being gay, including Britney Greiner in women’s basketball, Jason Collins in men’s basketball, and Robbie Rogers in soccer. Their comings out have met various response: praise, condemnation, admiration, and neutrality. The debate has thus spread into the world of sport, mostly concerning whether or not a person’s sexuality matters, and whether or not straight teammates can be comfortable with a gay teammate in the locker room.
We’ve seen how fans are criticized for their views of homosexuals — mostly exemplified by the letter from the Zenit St. Petersburg fans to their ownership proclaiming they didn’t want blacks or homosexuals on their club. And now (because we just can’t get enough) the foul stench of debate has arisen concerning Russia’s “anti-gay” laws that prohibit pro-gay propaganda.
Here’s the thing, though — this shouldn’t be something to be debated.
Alexey Sorokin, the CEO of the 2018 World Cup, recently defended the new laws, saying that the laws prohibit pro-gay propaganda, not homosexuality itself. “That is a big difference,” he said. He’s right.
Here’s the definition of “propaganda” according to my friends at dictionary.com:
1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
3. the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.
Sorokin made his point very well and diplomatically, but it seems to have been overlooked because people are so focused on the words “gay” and “prohibition” in the same sentence.
Here’s the main point: a soccer competition should be about soccer, nothing else.
It’s difficult to see why this is such an offensive issue. Think about it this way. If the World Cup were held in China, where Bibles are banned, you wouldn’t see christian flags being waved in the stands. If the World Cup were held in the 1950s United States, you wouldn’t see communist propaganda in the grounds, because these are issues on which the national governments have spoken clearly about their stance.
You can debate the moral issue all you want. You can accuse Russians of being archaic in their thinking, you can call them moral dinosaurs, close-minded, bigoted, etc. to your heart’s content. But in the context of the World Cup, that is not the role these laws play. The law (remember, in the context of the World Cup) is not to discriminate against a group of people, but it would seem to actually keep the peace. It’s evident by incidences such as the Zenit letter that the Russian people are not in agreement with countries like the United States, Norway, Spain, etc that support and/or allow and/or recognize same-sex couples. If a government is aware of where its people stand on an issue, why would it allow propaganda that promotes that issue at a competition of a sport with the history of violence that soccer has? In other words, why risk someone vehemently opposed to homosexuality encountering someone with pro-gay propaganda and introducing the risk of violence?