POLITICS: PennAve

Billie Jean King won't attend Sochi opening ceremony

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Politics,Sports,White House,Olympics,Russia,PennAve,Meghashyam Mali,Gay rights,Sochi,Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King will not be part of President Obama's delegation to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, according to the White House.

The White House on Wednesday released the updated delegation, absent King’s name.

The tennis star, citing her mother’s ill health, said she would not be able to attend the Olympic launch, according to reports.

“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,” said King in a statement reported by the Associated Press.

The president's delegation will be led by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Joining her are U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael A. McFaul, Assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for policy Robert Nabors and Olympic medalists Brian Boitano and Caitlin Cahow.

King, Boitano and Cahow are all openly gay athletes, and their inclusion in the delegation was seen as a jab at Russian President Vladimir Putin after Moscow passed new anti-gay rights legislation.

Obama, who became the first sitting U.S. president to openly back gay marriage, criticized the Russian laws but rejected calls from gay-rights groups to boycott the games.

The White House, though, sidestepped questions about whether the selection of openly gay athletes to the Sochi games was a direct snub to Putin.

press secretary Jay Carney said only that the delegation was chosen to highlight the “diversity” of the United States.

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