Maria Kirilenko
Russian Tennis Players Say They've Never Heard of Antigay Law

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com August 29 2013 4:17 PM ET

As international outrage over Russia's national ban on so-called homosexual propaganda escalates, several prominent Russian tennis players said they'd never heard about the law. 

Four Russian tennis professionals told members of the press at the U.S. Open in New York City this week that they hadn't heard any discussion about the law, which imposes fines and possible jail time for any individual or media organization disseminating information conveying that LGBT relationships and identities are normal or acceptable. 

"I didn't hear anything about it," Maria Kirilenko said, according to USA Today. Kirilenko, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, was joined in her ignorance about the law by fellow Russian tennis players Vera Dushevina, Nadia Petrova, and Dmitry Tursunov. 

Other Russian athletes remained cagey about their opinions on the law, and were hesitant to go on record either opposing or supporting the antigay policy. 

"I have my own opinion about this, but I don't know if I should comment," Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova told USA Today. "We should respect the laws, but I don't want any fights or words. Obviously, no one should be arrested."

Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won the 2004 U.S. Open, also expressed a tolerant attitude. 

"You can be whoever you want to be as long as you're happy," she told USA Today. But "In Russia, if you don't support Putin you are in big, big trouble."

While Russian athletes are hesitant to speak out against Putin and the State Duma, which unanimously passed the antigay law this summer, LGBT activists in New York were vocal in their disapproval, hosting a rally in Times Square yesterday demanding that Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola "Stop the Hate." 

The Dump Coke campaign is asking the international beverage company to withdraw its support for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, release a statement in English and Russian that condemns anti-LGBT discrimination, publish and publicize its policies on LGBT employment nondiscrimination and benefits, and mandate all its bottlers, distributors, and vendors worldwide adopt the same LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination policies, according to The New Civil Rights Movement.