AT&T Is First Olympic Tech Partner To Criticise Russia’s Anti-LGBT Law

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Team USA partner AT&T becomes first Olympic partner to criticise laws, as scrutiny on Samsung, Atos and Panasonic increases

US operator AT&T has criticised Russian anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual) laws that ban the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”, ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which begin on Friday.

The statement is a response to a call from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which wrote to every International Olympic Committee (IOC) sponsor in August, demanding that they stand up for gay (and all LGBT) rights.

AT&T is not a sponsor of the IOC, so it did not receive the letter, but it is a longstanding sponsor of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and its statement is likely to increase pressure on the IOC’s partners, which include Atos, Panasonic and Samsung, to make a stand.

AT&T Statement

sochi olympics official uniform gay protest © Sochi Winter Olympics Russia stadium © Anna Martynova Shutterstock Shutterstock “As a Proud Partner of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team for the past 30 years, we’ve showcased American athletes and celebrated their diversity all around the world,” says AT&T. “AT&T has a long and proud history of support for the LGBT community in the United States and everywhere around the world where we do business.

“We support LGBT equality globally and we condemn violence, discrimination and harassment targeted against LGBT individuals everywhere. Russia’s law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it’s harmful to a diverse society.

“We celebrate the diversity of all Olympic athletes, their fans, Russian residents and all people the world over – including and, especially, our employees and their loved ones. “

“As the games begin, we’re here to support and inspire American athletes who’ve worked hard and sacrificed much to achieve their dreams. 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.”

IOC Scrutiny

The HRC’s letter had asked IOC sponsors to adopt a “clear and unequivocal” position to anti-LGBT laws like the ones adopted by the Russian government and to denounce targeted violence against LGBT people in Russia.

It also asked the IOC for “clear, concrete, written” commitments from the Russia about the safety of athletes and attendees at Sochi 2014 and urged the organisation to reject bids from countries with laws that outlaw support for LGBT people.

“As a sporting organisation, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media,” said the IOC in a statement last July. “To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.” IOC President Thomas Bach is shown above.

Partner response

A petition from equality campaigners All Out calling on IOC sponsors to speak out against the laws and at the time of writing had 131,447 signatures. It plans to deliver the petition to each partner once it has secured 150,000 pledges of support, but none of the tech partners of Sochi 2014 have outright criticised the laws.

“As an Olympic TOP Partner, we believe in the spirit of the Games and its unique ability to unite the world in a way that is positive and inspirational,” says Samsung, which provides wireless telecommunications equipment to the IOC. “We support the Olympic Movement and wish as many people as possible can take part in the Olympic Games.

“We are engaged with the IOC on this important topic and support its position that sport is a human right and the Games should be open to all spectators, officials, media, and athletes, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

Panasonic issued an almost identical statement, also reiterating its support for the IOC’s position on the matter that the Olympics should be available to everyone.

The IOC’s other major technology partner, Atos, had not responded to TechWeekEurope’s requests for comment at the time of publication.

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