Will Billie Jean King Provide Sochi’s “John Carlos Moment”?

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Dec. 17 2013 6:37 PM

America’s Sochi Delegation: No Obamas, No Bidens, No Cabinet Officials

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Tennis legend Billie Jean King arrives for the state dinner in honour of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and his wife, Kim Yoon-Ok, on Oct. 13, 2011, at the White House.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Obama administration may not be completely boycotting the Sochi Olympics, but a day after France announced that its senior officials are skipping the games, the just-announced U.S. delegation for the Opening Ceremony is distinctly low-profile.

BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner reports that former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will be leading the delegation, along with Rob Nabors, the assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy, and Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.* Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will attend the Closing Ceremony.

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In other words, no Obama or Biden family members, no Clintons or Bushes, no John Kerry, no internationally recognized political figures.

Former tennis star Billie Jean King and figure skater Brian Boitano will also be in attendance. King, of course, is openly gay and an outspoken LGBT activist. Discussing the upcoming Sochi Games in light of Russia’s recent anti-gay laws, she recently told USA Today, "Sometimes I think we need a John Carlos moment," referring to the sprinter who gave a black power salute on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. "I think there's watershed moments, benchmarks, I would hope the majority of the athletes would speak out. It's a great platform. … I wish I was 21 again and in the Olympics."

At 70 years old, King will now be “in” the Olympics with the platform she mentioned. It should be an interesting Opening Ceremony.

*Correction, Dec. 18, 2013: This post originally misspelled BuzzFeed.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. Follow him on Twitter.