Pop Goes the Politics: Rippon has no pity for Pence
Leah Scheitel // Copy Editor
Stop what you’re doing and pay attention to Adam Rippon. It’s easy to do, he’s one of the top figure skaters in the world, performing elaborate routines in glitter costumers that demand attention. But the American Olympian – and first US male figure skater to compete as an openly gay man – is doing something more honourable than a triple pirouette axle combination. He’s using his current spotlight to not do something – to not meet with US vice president, Mike Pence. And Rippon not doing so is speaking volumes and bothering the shit out of Pence.
Pence has made a political career out of being a bit of a homophobe. During his tenure as the governor of Indiana, he made it legal for business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples looking for a wedding cake, among other services. And although Pence vehemently denies it, he is a believer in conversion therapy at the expense of HIV funding. His 2000 congressional campaign website advocated for redirecting funds for HIV treatment organizations, as they, “celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus,” and instead use that money for organizations that “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Apparently, to Pence, praying the gay away is a more effective form of HIV treatment than HIV research and treatment.
Pence has been trying, unsuccessfully, to meet with Rippon, using the Olympics as a photo opportunity to pose as a friend to the LGBTQ community and Rippon isn’t having any of it. The 28-year-old athlete has refused Pence’s invitations, citing he doesn’t want his Olympic experience to be about Pence, and rightfully so. Rippon is the one who put in the work, from the excruciating hours of training to the endless and intense competition circuit. He did this for himself and if he doesn’t want to use this opportunity, with the eyes of the world on him, to look chummy with a politician, he doesn’t have to.
A CNN reporter recently asked Rippon if he thinks that Pence did him a favour, by giving him the opportunity to amplify his message and support for LGBTQ rights, a notion that Rippon rejected.
“I think my hard work getting into the Olympics did me a favour,” he said. “I think I worked really hard to get where I am and I didn’t get to where I am [by] being gay or for speaking out on different issues. I got to where I am by working really hard.”
In the same interview, Rippon bashfully said he wants to be America’s Sweetheart, a dream that is quickly coming to fruition. He got emotional when he mentioned the thousands of messages he received from people who are impressed by him and relate to his story. Rippon is using his spotlight to show what elevated him to compete on the world’s stage – hard work and extreme dedication. That’s it. He’s not making excuses or allowing anyone to steer the conversation for him.
Of course, along with the accolades of admiration, Rippon has received backlash. Pence has personally tweeted at him twice, saying that his opposition to LGBTQ causes was “fake news”, in all caps to highlight his desperation. And most recently Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to bash Rippon for his refusal to let Pence ride his Olympic coattails. By not meeting someone, Rippon has shaken the core of the Republican Party. And if more proof is needed of the importance of LGBTQ advocacy and rights, it’s 2018 and Rippon is the first openly gay figure skater from the US. That into itself is amazing.