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Morrison takes a stand with gay nightclub as sponsor

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 2:20 AM

Morrison takes a stand with gay nightclub as sponsor

PHOTO: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Morrison describes himself as a "motorcycle driving, bicycle riding, speedskating speed freak.

by Vicki Hall

Denny Morrison’s main objective at the 2014 Winter Games centres on embracing the underdog role and winning his second Olympic gold medal in long-track speedskating. Politics just aren’t his thing.

But the Fort St. John, B.C. native hopes to make a personal statement all the same through his quiet affiliation with a gay nightclub called Twisted Element, billed the largest of its kind west of Montreal.

In the process, he aims to make amends to some folks he likely hurt along the way before adjusting his attitude on the matter of homosexuality.

“One of my sponsors this season is one of the gay bars in Calgary,” says Morrison, a member of the Canadian team pursuit team that graced the top of the podium in Vancouver. “They’ve supported me, and I think they’re great people.

“There’s a quote by Rob Delaney. He’s a comedian on Twitter, and he said, ‘I love gay people or, as I like to call them, people, because why distinguish them, right?’ They’re just people with different sexual preferences and it has no real impact on me.”

The issue of gay rights has dominated headlines – along with terrorism threats and security concerns – in the politically-charged lead-up to the Sochi Olympics.

Russia introduced legislation earlier this year banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to anyone under the age of 18. Seemingly in response, American President Barack Obama announced he will not attend the Games, but instead send a delegation that includes three openly gay former athletes in tennis player Billie Jean King, hockey player Caitlin Cahow and figure skater Brian Boitano.

Just last week, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov told the BBC there are no gay people in his city, in spite of the existence of several gay night clubs in this Black Sea resort town.

For Morrison, a two-time world champion in the 1,500 metres, the genesis of the controversy cuts close.

“I’ve lost friends over them becoming gay in my past,” he says. “I feel bad about that now. I realize how ridiculous that was. So that’s why I think it’s neat this gay club took me on.”

Morrison credits R.J. Fafard, the owner of Twisted Element, for sparking a complete paradigm shift on the matter – for making him realize gay people are, after all, people.

“Denny is the next generation,” Fafard says. “Hopefully, for anyone who is around his age and growing up now, hopefully being gay won’t be an issue.

“If everyone has the same attitude he has, it’s going to be an amazing future, right?”

As for sponsoring Morrison, Fafard considers the investment money well spent.

“Athletes have to commit themselves 100 per cent to their craft,” he says. “They can’t be going around looking for part-time jobs or anything, because then they wouldn’t be good at what they do.

“When Denny has a free moment, he actually comes in to the club. He’s not embarrassed to hang out with gay people. I think it’s the perfect fit.”

The feeling is mutual.

“The people who know me and some of the friends I’ve lost, they might see this and think, ‘how is that even possible?’” says Morrison, a three-time Olympian at age 28. “And it would be interesting to have a conversation with them and half-apologize and half tell them, ‘I really feel differently about you now, because I’ve educated myself on the subject.’

“All I can really do is basically just treat people better going forward. I realize my mistake.”

He realizes his mistake, and he’s taking action.

“I think there are two types of people – the ones who sit behind a desk and tell people what to do and the ones who lead by example,” Fafard says. “The ones who lead by example are true heroes.

“Denny is my true hero.”

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Categories: In the Spotlight, 2014 Sochi Olympics

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