Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday said he opposed boycotting the Sochi Olympic Games despite new Russian anti-gay laws, instead urging nations to wave rainbow flags during the opening ceremonies to show support for gay rights.
“That'd be pretty embarrassing for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Schumer said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.” “Let our athletes participate but still make a stand.”
In June, Putin signed a law banning gay “propaganda” and imposing fines on those holding gay pride rallies. The law has generated an international backlash ahead of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has called on the U.S. to boycott the games altogether in response to Russia's failure to return Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA employee who leaked details of top-secret National Security Agency surveillance programs.
President Obama on Friday rejected the idea of a boycott.
“I do not think it's appropriate to boycott the Olympics. We've got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed,” Obama said at a White House press conference.
Obama said he was “offended” by the Russian laws, but he expressed hopes that gay athletes succeeding at the games could change attitudes.
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have intensified since Moscow earlier this month granted Snowden temporary asylum, allowing him to evade espionage charges in the U.S.
Schumer praised Obama’s decision to cancel a bilateral summit with Russia in response to Snowden receiving asylum.
“The president is doing his job by trying to keep the person-to-person relationship [with Putin] OK,” Schumer said Monday, adding that canceling the summit was a necessary response to a “schoolyard bully.”
“I'd call Putin not someone who sits in the back of the classroom, he's a schoolyard bully, and the only way you deal with bullies is to stand up to them.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized Obama on Sunday, saying that the decision to cancel the summit is counterproductive and shows the president is unable to deal effectively with Putin.