Figure skater Adam Rippon, who recently became the first openly gay man to qualify for the U.S. Winter Olympics team, doesn’t think Vice President Mike Pence should lead the 2018 U.S. Olympic delegation next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon, 28, tells USA Today. “I’m not buying it.”
Rippon goes on to say he would decline meeting Pence at the traditional Olympic meet-and-greet held between the official delegation and opening ceremony, but added that he might consider a conversation with the vice president after the competition.
“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon continues. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.”
A spokesperson for Pence has responded to Rippon’s criticism in a statement. “The accusation is totally false with no basis in fact,” writes Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary. “But despite these misinformed claims, the Vice President will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.”
As governor of Indiana, Pence, a staunch opponent of marriage equality, signed a broad religious freedom bill that gave businesses the right to discriminate against LGBT people. He also suggested HIV/AIDS funding in the state would be better spent on conversion therapy for gay people.
Rippon previously stated that he may not accept an invitation to the White House after the Winter Games: “I don’t think somebody like me would be welcome there. I know what it’s like to go into a room and feel like you’re not wanted.”
“I think it’s important that we stand up for what we believe in and we speak out against things that we think are wrong and unjust,” Rippon continued. “If I talked to people the way that President Trump talks to people, my mom would kick my ass.”
“I can’t believe I am where I am today,” Rippon told reporters earlier this month after learning he would compete at the Winter Olympics. “I was just a little gay kid in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. Growing up I didn’t have a lot of role models. I said if I was ever given a platform and had a chance I would share my story.”
Rippon came out publicly in 2015, telling Skating magazine he wanted to send a message “to the dad out there who might be concerned that his son is a figure skater.”
“When athletes come out and say that they’re gay, it makes it a little more normal and less of a big deal—especially in the athletic community,” he said. “You have a lot of respect for your fellow athletes for working hard toward a goal. Their sexual orientation takes a backseat to that.”
Rippon recently tweeted that being a gay athlete is “exactly like being a straight athlete. Lots of hard work but usually done with better eye brows.”
Last month Rippon’s straightforward sass made headlines when he explained how he shook off a dislocated shoulder to compete in a 2017 Skate America event, telling NBC News, “I shimmied it back into place, and I said: ’You know what? I want my money. I want my check. I’m going to finish this program and I’m going to be awesome,’ and that’s what I did.”
If Rippon were to eventually cross paths with either Pence or Trump, expect Carson Jones-level side-eye.
Freeskier Gus Kenworthy, who came out publicly as gay after winning the silver at the 2014 Sochi Games, will find out if he qualifies for Pyeongchang on January 22. Kenworthy has already confirmed that he won’t accept a White House invite from Trump: “I have no interest in faking support.”
— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) January 20, 2018