Thursday on Today, NBC's Matt Lauer interviewed openly gay athlete Caitlin Cahow about the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Lauer asked Cahow if she would participate in a protest against Russia's anti-gay laws. Cahow said she would be there mostly as an Olympian, but Lauer asked again. And again.
Lauer: People are saying because you are openly gay and Billy Jean King is openly gay, that this is a statement, that this is a message being sent to Russia's government and Russia's president. Do you feel as if you're part of a statement?
Cahow: Honestly, Matt, I think that the President's been very open about his feelings about Russian policies, and I think he's been very open about his feeling about LGBT policies here at home, too. I'm going over to Sochi representing a country that has made the most dramatic shifts on some of these issues in the last few years and I'm very proud to be representing that kind of diversity.
Lauer: But let me just ask a blunt question, and I don't mean any disrespect by this, do you think you would have been chosen if you were not gay?
Cahow: I can't really speak to that, I wasn't on the selection committee. I mean, I think there are a lot of issues that I stand for that I'm looking to support our athletes with when I'm in Sochi, but the reality is right now that I've been selected and I'm gonna do my best to support our athletes.
It's surprising that Cahow was not offended by that question. Lauer's agenda is clear here; talk about her sexuality, not about her athletic ability. They continue:
Lauer: Billy Jean King said that perhaps it is time for a "John Carlos moment." You're too young to remember that moment in 1968 in Mexico City when John Carlos and Tommy Smith stood up and they gave the Black Power salute because they wanted to protest racial inequality. Would you be willing to be a part of some kind of a John Carlos moment in Sochi?
Cahow: Honestly I think that my John Carlos moment right now is going to Russia and being present and representing the United States. Like I said before, this delegation represents so much more than just LGBT diversity. We have a really remarkable diversity in the United States. And I think that's what all of the athletes in Sochi and the delegation will be demonstrating.
That should have quieted his banter, but it did not:
Lauer: The Russians have said there will be no repercussions for any athlete, or I guess bystander, doing any kind of subtle protest – wearing rainbow arm bands or anything like that. Do you think we're gonna see a lot of protests once the games begin?
Cahow: I think that very many people feel very strongly about this issue and I think that there are going to be statements that are made. I would say my main goal is to make sure that athletes and spectators stay safe and that this is a peaceful Olympics and that everyone is able to really appreciate and take in the amazing qualities that the Olympics provide.
The Olympics should be a time for America to come together and cheer on athletes that are representing the country. Instead, Lauer wants a political statement to be made because without that, he only gets to report who won a medal.