Two-time men’s European figure skatingchampion Javier Fernández has no doubt lost some fans in Spain and abroad after he made the comments in an interview with Spanish daily El Mundo on Friday.
When asked what he thought of all the news surrounding Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws, the 22-year-old told the broadsheet:
“The games are sport, not politics. I have my own opinions and I won’t get involved in what anyone else thinks, but I do believe you have to respect the laws of the countries you visit.
“It’s not such a big dilemma. It’s better if homosexuals (athletes) don’t make such a meal of it at the games.”
Last June, Russia passed an anti-gay “propaganda” bill banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors, which has given rise to international criticism and calls to boycott the games.
Fernández’s words have been met by a wave of criticism on Twitter and other social media, with some Spaniards calling for him to be removed as their national flag bearer at the games.
“The German teams gets a rainbow-coloured kit and our flag bearer Javier Fernández tells us to ‘lie low’”, wrote one Twitter user.
“Javier Fernández tells gays to ‘lie low’ while he goes to Sochi with his girlfriend,” tweeted another.
A popular hashtag called #YoNoMeCorto, #I’mNotLyingLow in English, is already becoming a trending topic among Spanish Twitter users.
Fernández , who currently resides and trains in Canada, said last month “It is a huge honour to be the flag bearer at the Sochi Olympics.”
Having retained his European title in Budapest on Saturday, he is the main medal hope amongst the team of 21 Spanish athletes who will travel to take part in the games.
After winning bronze at last year’s world championships, Fernández said he sometimes feels like an Eskimoplaying volleyball as he tries to get a look-in in football-mad Spain.