Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy: I'd be ‘proud’ to skip White House for LGBTQ community
Kenworthy, who came out as gay in 2016, says the country has taken steps backward under Trump
The last time that American skier Gus Kenworthy went to the Olympics, he left with a silver medal and a bunch of stray dogs he adopted from Sochi.
This time, Kenworthy could leave Pyeongchang known as "the gay skier," and that is fine by him.
The 26-year-old Kenworthy didn't publicly come out as a gay man until two years after the 2014 Olympics, something for which he seems particularly hard on himself. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Kenworthy called himself a "coward" for hiding who he was during his first Olympic experience, but he's looking forward to the opportunity to represent the LGBTQ community this time around in South Korea -- even if it means more pressure.
"I've got more eyeballs on me," Kenworthy said. "My platform's a lot bigger. I signed a bunch of Olympic sponsors and I have the LGBT audience watching me, and I want to do right by them."
For Kenworthy, part of "doing right by them" includes representing America without feigning support for President Donald Trump. Kenworthy has been particularly outspoken on Trump's administration, which he believes has forced the LGBTQ community to take a step back after a progressive run under Barack Obama's presidency.
"So many times in the past, [Trump] has said that he supports the LGBT community. But everything he says has to be taken with a grain of salt. Because he doesn't mean any of it. He'll go back on his words. He'll change things. He'll say he didn't say things that he's on tape saying.
I would just tell him how in shambles our county is at the moment. How unprotected so many people in the country feel. I was in Austria when he got elected. I woke up to the news, in tears. I came back to the U.S., there are swastikas that are being graffitied on buildings. There's nooses being hung at African-American museums. It's a scary place right now.
I don't think he's taking the steps to be like, 'you know what, this is actually not OK. This isn't what our country's about. This just can't happen.' He's just allowing it to kind of wreak its havoc."
Because of how outspoken he is against the current administration, Kenworthy has already had to face questions about whether or not he'll accept a White House invite if he medals in Pyeongchang. He's also had his answer for a while now.
"I won't go," Kenworthy told TIME last July. "I have no interest in going and faking support. I'm proud to be competing for the U.S. I'm proud to be an American, but I don't want to show any support for that cabinet. I don't want to go shake his hand."
Kenworthy confirmed to The AP that he hasn't changed his tune regarding a potential White House visit. In fact, his convictions may be even stronger now, as Kenworthy said he it would actually be an honor to be able to turn down an invitation.
"I think me not going will make zero difference, but it makes me feel I'm doing a little something, and I'd be proud not to go," he said.
Kenworthy won the silver medal in men's freestyle skiing at the 2014 Winter Olympics and has seen continued success on the World Cup circuit in the years since, but he still may best be known as the American athlete who went to great lengths to rescue a number of stray dogs that littered the Olympic venues in Sochi.
Kenworthy, along with his then-boyfriend, were the subject of international headlines as they stayed behind in Russia for more than a month after the closing ceremonies as they fought to secure the proper permits and paperwork to finalize the adoptions. The coverage helped create awareness -- as well as prompt additional adoptions -- regarding the growing number of homeless dogs in Russia.
This time around, he's hoping his Olympic experience will help spread awareness on an issue that's much more human.
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