Openly gay former tennis superstar Billie Jean King won’t be delivering a symbolic message to Russian President Vladimir Putin when the Olympic Games open in Sochi. Her mother is seriously ill.
“With my mother in failing health, I will not be able to join the U.S. Presidential Delegation at this week’s opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics,” King said in a statement provided to Yahoo News. “It is important for me to be with my mother and my brother at this difficult time. I want to thank President Obama for including me in this historic mission and I look forward to supporting our athletes as they compete in Sochi.”
At the White House, spokesman Shin Inouye said Obama “extends his thoughts and prayers to Ms. King and her family in this difficult time."
Instead, ice hockey silver medal-winner Caitlin Cahow will attend the Feb. 7 opening ceremony. Cahow, who is openly gay, had originally been named to the delegation at the closing ceremony. (Cahow recently shared her views on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people attending the Sochi Olympics despite Russia’s anti-LGBT attitudes).
Obama’s choice of King as part of the delegation was widely seen as a rebuke to Russia’s anti-gay laws.