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President Obama's selection of Billie Jean King for the official U.S. delegation to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games is a stroke of genius.

What better way to show the nation's disgust for President Vladimir Putin's anti-gay propaganda law than for Obama to send an American cultural icon and sports legend who also happens to be openly gay?

King, 70, the winner of 12 Grand Slam singles titles during her Hall of Fame tennis career, never was an Olympian, but she has been watching Putin's discriminatory law from afar.

In a recent conversation with USA TODAY Sports' Kelly Whiteside, King talked about the general hesitancy U.S. athletes expressed regarding the law.

"Sometimes I think we need a John Carlos moment," she said on Sept. 25, referring to the U.S. track star who was expelled from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics along with American sprinter Tommie Smith for protesting racial discrimination.

"I think there's watershed moments, benchmarks. I would hope the majority of the athletes would speak out. It's a great platform."

Then she sighed. "I wish I was 21 again and in the Olympics."

Now she is, just in a different way.

Think of the millions of Russian citizens who are gay, or have a gay family member or friend, living in a nation where discrimination based on sexual orientation is not only tolerated, but promoted.

And the U.S. president sends one of the world's most recognizable faces of equality and inclusion to attend the Opening Ceremony in such a visible role?

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It's the perfect call for an extraordinary international situation.

This is not only a blatant message directed right at Putin, it's also a strong signal to all Russians who are subject to that terrible law, the people who will be allowed to protest only in specified zones during the Games, but not at all before or after. These are the people who will remain behind in the midst of abject discrimination once the Olympics end and the spotlight they bring disappears.

In a statement on Tuesday, King said, "I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people."

In addition to sending King to represent the United States in Sochi, Obama made sure not to send any top U.S. political leaders. For the first time in at least 20 years, no U.S. president, vice president, one of their wives or a current cabinet secretary will be in a U.S. Olympic delegation.

The highest-ranking official will be former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, while 1988 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano also will be part of the group -- what just might be the most significant delegation the United States has ever sent to an Olympic Games.

@cbrennansports for all the latest on major sports issues.

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