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At UN, sports stars Martina Navratilova and Jason Collins speak out against homophobia

BY CARA ANNA
ASSOCIATED PRESS

UNITED NATIONS -- Former professional basketball player Jason Collins and tennis great Martina Navratilova on Tuesday urged world sports bodies like the International Olympic Committee and FIFA to take gay rights into consideration when awarding major sporting events.

The two openly gay athletes spoke at a special United Nations event celebrating International Human Rights Day.

They focused in part on the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia, which passed a law this summer banning homosexual "propaganda." The law has drawn international condemnation and sparked calls for a boycott, though no nations have threatened to pull their athletes.

Navratilova, who lost lucrative endorsements when she came out in 1981, said she doesn't support boycotts of any kind. But she said the IOC is "putting its head in the sand" and criticized FIFA, the world soccer body, for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

"Nobody's talking about Qatar and the World Cup. You can get a jail term there," she said of consensual gay sex in the Persian Gulf nation. In six other countries, including Saudi Arabia, simply being gay is punishable by death, she said.

"Gays and lesbians seem to be the last group it's seen as OK to pick on," she said.

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