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President Obama says delegation to Sochi ‘speaks for itself’

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama speaks during an end-of-the year news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. At the end of his fifth year in office, Obama’s job approval and personal favorability ratings have fallen to around the lowest point of his presidency. Obama will depart later for his home state of Hawaii for his annual Christmas vacation trip. It’s the first time in his presidency that his departure plans have not been delayed by legislative action in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


President Barack Obama made his first public comments about the White House delegation to Sochi that includes three openly gay athletes, saying the group “speaks for itself” in a press conference Friday.

The delegation includes tennis legend Billie Jean King, two-time Olympic hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow and 1988 Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano.

In February, they’ll be going to a country that passed a law in June banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations toward minors.

“When it comes to the Olympics and athletic performance we don’t make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation,” Obama said.

Here’s the transcript of Sochi question to Obama:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. What was the message you were trying to send with not only your decision not to attend the Sochi Games, but also with the people you named to the delegation to represent the United States at those games?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I haven’t attended Olympics in the past and I suspect that, you know -- you know, me attending Olympics, particularly at a time when we’ve got all the other stuff that people have been talking about, is going to be tough, although I would love to do it. I’ll be going to a lot of Olympic Games post- presidency. (Laughter.) I think the delegation speaks for itself. You’ve got outstanding Americans, outstanding athletes, people who will represent us extraordinarily well. And, you know, the fact that we’ve got folks like Billie Jean King or Brian Boitano, who themselves have been world-class athletes that everybody acknowledges for their excellence but also for their character, who also happen to be members of the LGBT community, you should take that for what it’s worth, that when it comes to the Olympics and athletic performance we don’t make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation. We judge people on how they perform, both on the court and off the court, on the field and off the field. And that’s a value that I think is at the heart of not just America but American sports.

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