“Well, there is no doubt we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Obama in an interview with NBC Sports’ Bob Costas.
Obama tapped a number of openly gay athletes to attend the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, Russia, a move that was widely seen as a rebuke to Moscow after lawmakers there passed anti-gay legislation last year.
The president picked Caitlin Cahow, Brian Boitano and Billie Jean King to travel to Sochi, though King is unable to attend because of a family illness.
The White House initially sidestepped questions about whether the move -- along with Obama's decision not to attend the Olympics -- was a snub to Russian President Vladimir Putin or a criticism of Russia's laws, saying only that the delegation highlighted America's “diversity.”
But Obama in his interview said that he wanted the delegation to make clear his opposition to discrimination.
“One of the wonderful things about the Olympics is that you are judged by your merit,” Obama told NBC. “How good you are, regardless of where you come from, what you look like, who you love — and that I think is consistent with the spirit of the Olympics.
“It is certainly consistent with American values and we want to make sure the people understand that,” he added.
Obama declined calls from gay rights groups for the U.S. to boycott the games, saying he did not believe it was “appropriate.” But the president strongly criticized the Russian laws, saying that "nobody is more offended” by them than him.