Russian Tennis Players Stay Quiet About LGBTQ Laws at U.S. Open

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Russian tennis player Nadia Petrova was one of few Russian U.S. Open participants to speak in favor of LGBTQ rights. Russian tennis player Nadia Petrova was one of few Russian U.S. Open participants to speak in favor of LGBTQ rights.
By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
Russian tennis players at the U.S. Open kept mostly mum about their country's recent anti-gay legislation, with many claiming that they didn't know anything about it. Many international athletes have spoken out against Russia's recently-passed anti-gay laws; this must have been terribly confusing for many of the Russian athletes competing at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships right now in New York, because they claimed to have no idea what anyone was talking about. USA Today reports:

Six Russian players interviewed at the U.S. Open the last two days either said they were uninformed or they were tight-lipped about the "propaganda" legislation. "I have my own opinion about this but I don't know if I should comment," Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova said following her first round win on Monday. WTA Player Council member Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the USA said she'd heard no chatter among players in the locker room about it... In New York, four Russians — Maria Kirilenko, Vera Dushevina, Nadia Petrova, and Dmitry Tursunov — said they had never heard of the legislation. "I didn't hear anything about it," said Kirilenko, who won a bronze medal in doubles at last year's London Olympics and is engaged to NHL star Alex Ovechkin. Pavlyuchenkova, 22, who met Putin last month in Moscow and said she was a supporter, expressed pride that Russia is hosting the Winter Games and plans to be in Sochi. She fears the Games will be boycotted. "We should respect the laws, but I don't want any fights or words," the 33rd-ranked player said, identifying herself as heterosexual. "Nobody should be arrested, that's for sure." 2004 U.S. Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova said she had heard of the controversy but didn't know enough to offer an informed opinion. "For me it's very difficult to judge," she said after her opening-round victory Tuesday. "You need to get deeper in the topic. I want to be responsible for everything I say." Kuznetsova, who moved to Spain to train as a teenager but now is based in Moscow, expressed a live-and-let live philosophy — "You can be whoever you want to be as long as you're happy" — as well as concern about publicly criticism the tough Putin regime. "In Russia if you don't support Putin you are in big, big trouble," Kuznetsova said with a chuckle. The worldly Petrova, 31, who spent part of her childhood in Egypt and now lives in Florida, did not want to delve into politics. She said her parents support Putin. "To be honest, he's done some good things for the country so I can't really complain," the No. 20 seed said Tuesday after losing to 6-3, 6-4 to Julia Glushko of Israel. Moscow-born Petrova, a former top-5 player and Kirilenko's bronze medal partner in London, was asked how she felt about the hot-button issue of gay marriage. She said she had gay friends who had tied the knot, and said they were "lovely" people. "If it makes them happy, why not?" she said.

Both men's and women's tennis tours go to Russia for tournaments after the U.S. Open; just like the Olympics, any gay participants or fans will have to keep their sexual identity and thoughts about the law hidden to avoid arrest and prosecution under Russian law. BlogTail_NickMattos