NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: If being gay isn’t the story, why are athletes touting it?

There are members of the LGBT community in every walk of life, including the Winter Olympic Games.

In PyeongChang, South Korea, U.S. freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, the silver medalist at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, said in an Associated Press story over the weekend that he hopes he’ll be talked about more for his skiing in these 2018 Olympic Games than his being gay.

According to AP, “By vigorously embracing an unofficial role as Olympic flag-bearer for the LGBT community, Kenworthy is edging sport closer to the point where being a gay athlete is no longer even an issue.”

If being gay should not be an issue, and we believe it shouldn’t, then why has Kenworthy been making it one and using it to slam Vice President Mike Pence?

Kenworthy posted on social media: “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it” as well as putting up photos of him with figure skater Adam Rippon.

Rippon and Kenworthy are the first two openly gay U.S. Winter Olympians, according to USA TODAY.

“I feel incredibly honored to be here in Korea competing for the U.S., and I’m so proud to be representing the LGBTQ community alongside this amazing guy!” Kenworthy wrote beneath a photo of he and Rippon. “Eat your heart out, Pence.”

On “Ellen” earlier this month, Kenworthy said Pence has “directly attacked the LGBT community.”

In January, Rippon, the 2016 U.S. men’s figure skating champion who placed third in men’s free skate Sunday night, criticized the White House in an interview with USA TODAY for selecting Pence to lead the 2018 U.S. Olympic delegation to South Korea. He accused him of funding gay conversion therapy (a procedure a Pence spokesman says the vice president does not support).

So if Kenworthy wants the media to focus on him as a skier, why is his sexuality his message?

“Myself being out,” Kenworthy said, “Adam being out, all these athletes that are finally out for the first time, I think it just shows a shift and a change and hopefully it means that in the future it won’t be a big thing. It won’t be a headline. It won’t be ‘the gay Olympian,’ ‘the gay skier, the gay anything. It will just be ‘a skier.'”

Despite that claim, AP wrote that while Kenworthy hopes to medal again in Pyeongchang, “he said the mark he most wants to leave is for the LGBT cause.”

That’s his right. But in their criticism of Pence, he and Rippon need to recognize that besides there being members of the LGBT community in the Olympic Village, there are also Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists and those who believe differently on many different issues.

None of us, the media included, should make an issue of those differences, either, or show hate or discrimination to anyone because of them. In fact, why would we even point them out?

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