U.S. sponsor AT&T condemns Russian anti-gay law

Wed Feb 5, 2014 12:59pm EST
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By Keith Weir

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Telecoms company AT&T, a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic team, has publicly criticized Winter Games host Russia over its "gay propaganda" law, adding to the pressure on other major companies to speak out.

Protesters had focused on getting the 10 global Olympic sponsors to take a tougher stand ahead of Friday's opening ceremony but will welcome the support of such a well known company as AT&T.

A law passed last year outlaws promotion of homosexuality among minors. Russia's critics argue that the legislation fosters a climate of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups in Russia.

"Russia's law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it's harmful to a diverse society," AT&T said in a blog post headlined: "A Time for Pride and Equality."

"We also want to be on record with our support for the LGBT community, and we hope that others involved with the Olympic Games will do the same," it added.

The issue has caused embarrassment to companies including McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble who pay around $100 million each for rights to sponsor the Olympics over a four-year period and want to tap into a feel-good atmosphere during the Games.

"These brands have spent millions to align themselves with the Olympics, but have repeatedly refused to support the founding principles of the Games," said Andre Banks, who is based in New York and is one of the founders of gay rights group All Out.

ATHLETES' DILEMMA   Continued...

Olympic rings are displayed with images against restriction of speech and freedom of information, repression of demonstrations, discrimination due to sexual orientation and migrant's exploitation, as part of a protest by human rights organisations a week before of The Sochi winter Olympic Games in Paris February 1, 2014. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes