American runner Nick Symmonds dedicated his silver medal in the 800 meters at the World Championships in Moscow to his gay and lesbian friends, a move many have interpreted as a bold protest against Russia's new homophobic laws.
"As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them," he told Russian news service R Sport. "Whether you're gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there's anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested."
With the words, considered especially daring because he said them while in the country, Symmonds joined a group of athletes, former athletes and politicians who have expressed concerns about Russia's new laws, heading into the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
In a blog posted last week on the Runner's World website, Symmonds said he would refrain from talking about the laws during his time there. "These laws, which do not expressly prohibit being homosexual, criminalize public discussion of homosexuality, especially with foreigners. As an American, I believe in freedom of speech and equality for all, and therefore disagree with the laws that Russia has put in place. Given that I am currently residing in London, I will say, once again, that our LGBT neighbors deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. However, as an American who is about to reside in Moscow for 12 days, this will be the last time I will mention this subject."
"If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country's generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home," he later added in the post. "Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union."
Symmonds, who has posed for a NOH8 campaign, also said after the race, "I respect Russians' ability to govern their people. I disagree with their laws. I do have respect for this nation. I disagree with their rules."