Activists Say "Nyet" to NBC Olympics with Today Show Protest
Gay activists from Queer Nation flocked to midtown Manhattan on the morning of Jan. 16 to protest NBC’s exclusive coverage of the Olympics and to urge them to report on the Russian government’s attacks on gays. NBC is the official network of the Sochi Winter Olympics, and Matt Lauer will be in Russia to anchor coverage of the Games in February.
According to a recent article on New Now Next, more than a dozen gay rights protestors caught the Today show staff off guard when they unfurled a 90 foot rainbow banner as Matt Lauer interviewed fans live in Rockefeller Center. The protestors demand that NBC report not only on the Olympics, but on the Russian government’s ongoing attacks on the LGBT community.
"NBC and Matt Lauer will have remarkable access to Vladimir Putin and the Russian LGBT community," said Ken Kidd of Queer Nation, a direct action group dedicated to ending discrimination, violence and repression against the LGBT community. "Along with that comes the responsibility to report the real news. We are putting NBC on notice: Making Sochi a two-week travelogue infomercial for Putin would turn NBC into his media collaborators."
Among the activists at the Queer Nation action were Kidd, Duncan Osborne, Andy Humm, Brendan Fay, Gilbert Baker and Ann Northorp, who vowed to "speak loudly and organize actions until this anti-gay violence and terror ends."
"All of us have a human responsibility to do something to end the reign of terror against LGBT persons in Russia," Fay told EDGE. "We see the images of the brutal violence. We know of the anti-gay laws. We need to use every resource available to us to speak out and call for an end to violence and dire circumstances of LGBT Russians who ask for our support and solidarity."
Shouting chants and waving a banner that read "Human Rights Yes, Russian Lies Nyet," the demonstrators hit Rockefeller Plaza at 8 a.m., just as the Today show was going live. Onlookers reportedly turned away from NBC’s cameras to watch the protest, which was disbursed by police after 10 minutes. There were no arrests.
The protest is reportedly one of Queer Nation’s "zaps," a series of high-profile protests launched by the group that include Dec. 12 actions at two NBC employees Christmas parties, confrontations with Moscow government officials at meetings promoting U.S. investment in Russia, a "zap" against Putin supporters performing at the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall and at "Russia Day" at the New York Stock Exchange.
On January 15, two members of Queer Nation NY confronted figure skater Brian Boitano at an appearance at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. Boitano, one of three openly gay men and women chosen by President Barack Obama to represent the United States in Sochi, has remained silent on Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, insisting instead that athletes and spectators respect Russian law when they travel to the Olympics. Boitano said nothing during the ten-minute confrontation.
Activists demanded that he actively oppose Russia’s anti-gay laws when he goes to the Winter Olympics. These laws effectively ban any pro-LGBT statement in public or private and on the Internet. Another law bans adoption of Russian children by people from any jurisdiction that allows same-sex marriage. Queer Nation demands that ambassadors make people aware of these laws.
"Covering the gay and lesbian members of the U.S. delegation to the Winter Games is not the same as covering Russia’s dismal human rights record," said Kidd. "NBC must report on the Kremlin’s murderous policies right now. Its lack of coverage of Russia’s human rights violations while burnishing Russia’s image ahead of the Games is shameful."
For more information, visit www.queernationny.org, follow them on Twitter @QueerNationNY or ’like’ them on Facebook at Facebook.com/qn.newyork
Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.