NBC Sports chief Mark Lazarus on Saturday acknowledged that the network will address the controversy stirred by Russia’s new anti-gay laws in the Peacock’s coverage of February’s winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Lazarus sought to head off a questioning frenzy on the issue that has made headlines during the past week after Russian legislators enacted laws that could potentially lead to the arrest of gay athletes who travel to Sochi for the competition. Lazarus noted that the Olympics has long been affected by social and cultural issues of the day.
“We will address those issues as they are relevant at the time of the Games, as has always been done by NBC’s coverage,” Lazarus said at the start of the TCA sesh on the winter Games.
Public awareness of Russia’s move and how U.S. and the Olympic Committee may react was heightened earlier this week by an editorial in the New York Times by actor and gay activist Harvey Fierstein. There have been calls from LGBT activist orgs for a boycott of the Games — which would be a financial disaster for NBCUniversal.
Lazarus emphasized that the International Olympic Committee has pressed the Russian government on the new law and has been assured that “there will not be any issues regarding what takes place during the Games.”
The IOC will continue to monitor the situation, Lazarus said. He sought to distance NBC and the Olympics from a broader responsibility to make a statement from a human rights standpoint.
“Governments across the world have different laws” that many find distasteful but are not a source of friction “as long as it doesn’t affect us.”
Lazarus added: “If it is still their law and impacting any part of the Olympic games we will acknowledge it.” And he quickly sought to distance NBC and Comcast from any suggestion that they condone discrimination.
“We don’t believe in the spirit of the law that they have passed and are hopeful that the Olympic spirit will win out,” he said.