Gay rights groups borrow Games message for campaign

Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:16am EST
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By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - International gay rights campaigners are using branded clothing inspired by the Olympic movement's own values to show their opposition to Russian laws on homosexuality ahead of the Sochi Games.

American Apparel, known for its provocative marketing campaigns, is selling a line of bright red T-shirts, hoodies and hats based on Principle 6 from the Olympic charter, which spells out the movement's opposition to any form of discrimination.

Campaigners say the merchandise offers athletes a way of making a point about Russia's gay propaganda laws without falling foul of an International Olympic Committee ban on political protest during Games.

"This is an enormous opportunity to make a statement that will be heard around the world," said Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally which fights against homophobia in sport.

"We've constructed a campaign that gives athletes the maximum ability to speak out with the minimum risk," he added.

Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff is one of the Sochi-bound athletes to model the clothing, and Canadian skier Mike Janyk has also backed the campaign.

Olympic host Russia has angered human rights activists with a law banning the promotion of homosexuality among minors. Critics say it is fostering a culture in which gays are persecuted although President Vladimir Putin denies that Russia is "going after" gays.

"People can feel free and at ease but please leave the children in peace," he said during a visit to Sochi ahead of next month's Games.   Continued...

A Principle 6 bag is seen inside an American Apparel store in New York, January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton