ADAM RIPPON doesn’t want his month-long dispute with Mike Pence over the vice president’s record on gay rights to overshadow his long-awaited Olympic performance.
Or those of the rest of the US team.
One of two openly gay US athletes at the Pyeongchang Games, Rippon criticised the White House last month for choosing Pence to lead its official delegation for today’s opening ceremony.
Pence has been considered an opponent of the LGBT community after the conservative vice-president signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act while serving as governor of Indiana.
Critics say the legislation encourages discrimination against gay people.
“I don’t want to make this too much for my competitors and for my teammates,” Rippon said after an afternoon practice session yesterday.
“I’m just kind of focused on the competition. The opening ceremony is tomorrow. I don’t mind talking about it, but I don’t want to distract my teammates.”
Pence, who arrived in Seoul yesterday, also tried to bury the story.
He tweeted to Rippon: “I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you. I am proud of you and ALL OF OUR GREAT athletes and my only hope for you and all of #TeamUSA is to bring home the gold. Go get ‘em!”
What Rippon jokingly referred to as “brouhaha” began with an interview with USA Today last month in which he called Pence, among other things, a hypocrite for espousing Christian virtues while standing by some of the divisive and inflammatory statements made by President Donald Trump.
“If he’s OK with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries,” Rippon said, “I think he should really go to church.”
US skier Gus Kenworthy, who is also openly gay, has been critical of Pence’s role in leading the US delegation too, calling him a “strange choice” in an interview this week.
Rippon and Kenworthy both say they would skip a White House visit if Team USA is invited.
“I think at the very core I’ve always spoken my mind, spoken from the heart,” Rippon said.
“I think as an athlete that’s important. And I know not everyone will agree with me, but I think that is what is special about the Olympics. It’s a time to come together as athletes and unite.”
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