NBC's panel for the 2014 Sochi Olympics at the Television Critics Association's fall TV previews on Saturday was an opportunity for the network to explain how it will address Russia's recent anti-gay climate in its coverage. Instead, NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus stated simply that the network will address it if it becomes an issue.
"We'll address it at the time because it's still unfolding," Lazarus said. "The IOC has addressed it with the Russian government and has assured athletes, fans and media that there will not be any issues regarding what takes place during the Games. The IOC is watching this very closely and they're monitoring this and we'll address it if it becomes an issue."
"We, as a company, obviously believe in equality and opportunity for all," he continued. "We don't believe the Games are in the spirit of the law that they have passed and we're hopeful that the Olympic spirit will win out."
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation that bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," which imposes fines, jail time, and, for those not native to Russia, deportation should an individual show or disseminate information that would insinuate that same-sex relationships are "socially equivalent." The law implies that any athlete, trainer, spectator, reporter or official could be arrested for, say, showing a public display of affection toward a same-sex partner.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin has called on NBC to use its coverage to expose the new legislation. In a statement released Friday, the network said it had assurances from the Russian government that the new legislation would not affect those taking part in or attending the Olympics. How the Russian people will react to LGBT visitors, however, remains to be seen.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics start on Feb 6, 2014. Will you be watching? Should NBC address the new legislation?