After suggesting a potential U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has been met with strong opposition.
On Tuesday, Graham – a second-term senator from South Carolina – told The Hill he would support a boycott if Russia were to grant former NSA technical contractor Edward Snowden asylum. Snowden is trying to avoid extradition after leaking classified information about U.S. surveillance programs.
“I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them,” Graham said.
Graham’s proposal has faced sharp criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee.
On Wednesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner declared that Graham was “dead wrong,” asking, “Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who’ve been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t find a place to call home?”
U.S. Olympic Committee spokesperson Patrick Sandusky also criticized the proposal in a written statement released Wednesday.
“While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country’s best interests. If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work. Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict.”
The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow in the wake of the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union, along with more than a dozen other countries, boycotted the Summer Games held in Los Angeles.