For USOC, silence wrong road to follow after Coulter slur of Muslim Olympian

For USOC, silence wrong road to follow after Coulter slur of Muslim Olympian

The United States Olympic Committee is deservedly proud for having been named last week as one of this year’s business diversity leaders by Profiles in Diversity Journal, honoring the USOC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion as “a means to achieve business success.”

For the USOC, that commitment can refer to both the athletes who represent the United States at the Olympics, their coaches and the organizational staff hired to support them - in the case of this award, specifically Jason Thompson,  the USOC director for diversity and inclusion.  Athletes, coaches and staff combine to help create the success measured in medals and other noteworthy performances at the Olympics and Paralympics.

That’s why I wish the USOC had done itself even prouder by calling out Ann Coulter for her hateful, racist tweet related to Ibtihaj Muhammad, a black, Muslim woman emblematic of the rich diversity on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.

Read More

By straddling a line on Trump order, USOC loses its moral balance

By straddling a line on Trump order, USOC loses its moral balance

It’s nice that the United States Olympic Committee has received assurances from the U.S. government that it will, in the USOC’s words, “work with us to ensure that athletes and officials from all countries will have expedited access to the United States in order to participate in international athletic competitions.”

Note that the USOC statement says nothing about guaranteed access and really contains nothing new.  The State Department always has worked with the USOC, and it always has had the right to deny access to undesirables of any sort, like the Chilean shooter refused a visa for the 1987 Indianapolis Pan American Games because he was accused of human rights violations, including murder, in his homeland.  Some say that justified denial hurt Anchorage's bid for the 1994 Winter Olympics.

But in the big picture, even assuring entry of athletes for international competitions is of little consequence in the face of the Trump administration’s order banning immigration and travel to the United States for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.  It also would be overly optimistic to think the government is going to expedite access for athletes from those countries – or even grant it - while doing “extreme vetting” at the same time.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, those assurances came too late to prevent an Iranian-born taekwondo athlete who is a citizen of Iceland from being denied entry to compete at a major event in Las Vegas, a situation first reported by ESPN.  The timing may have been unfortunate, but even that logical explanation will not allay fears of more to come.

That is why the rest of the USOC’s Monday statement on the issue was so disappointingly anodyne, even if that was expected.  It will do anything, as I suggested in a column posted yesterday, to avoid a Trump tantrum against the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Olympics, because lack of national government support would sound a death knell for L.A. 2024.

Read More

American arrogance? An Olympic bid while Trump tells the rest of the world to get lost

American arrogance? An Olympic bid while Trump tells the rest of the world to get lost

It turns out, thankfully, that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will not tailor his conscience to suit the fascism of the times.

(Did I just write fascism instead of fashions?  Must have been a typo.)

In a statement about the Xenophobe-in-Chief’s travel and immigration bans on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the most offensive but only the latest of the president’s unconscionable statements or orders, Mayor Garcetti said such action “only fans the flames of hatred that those who wish us harm seek to spread.”

So much for any worry that Garcetti would hold his tongue to curry the Madman-in-Chief’s support for the Los Angeles 2024 Summer Olympic bid.

The time also has come for the United States Olympic Committee to end its silence, no matter that the Third Grader-in-Chief might immediately give his usual “nyah, nyah” response on Twitter and do his best to undermine the Los Angeles bid (which he is doing already.)

And it is high time for the three International Olympic Committee members from the United States – including two women, one an African-American – to show they stand against intolerance. Neither of those two women, Olympians Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero, has replied to messages seeking comment.  DeFrantz once was courageous enough to defy the U.S. government by publicly criticizing the White House-mandated U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

And time for the IOC, which reaped such goodwill over its refugee team at the 2016 Olympics, to speak out rather than continue to hide behind the shibboleth of not interfering in the governance of sovereign nations.  That IOC already insists Olympic host cities – and by extension, their governments – play by its rules.

Read More

Athletes save the Olympics from their leaders' big lies

Athletes save the Olympics from their leaders' big lies

Oh, how the International Olympic Committee must yearn for the good old days of 1999, when revelations of bribes for bid city votes led to the worst scandal in the hoary (or should that be whorey?) history of the IOC.

Because as bad as that was, 2016 was even worse.

That is a painful irony given that years with an Olympics usually leave enough good recollections to wipe the seamier ones from the public memory bank.

Not so in 2016, even if the underlying point of this column, as it has been in each of the 30 years for which I have given international sports awards, still is to celebrate the best athletes in sports for whom an Olympic gold medal is the ultimate prize.

Read More

Of The Golden Stars Of Rio – And Those Who Made All Medals Shine Brighter

Who was the biggest star of the 2016 Olympics?

It depends on your point of view.

From a global perspective, the answer is undoubtedly Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, because track and field is one of the two most widely followed and played sports in the worlds (soccer is the other). And the world’s fastest man is the most prized Olympic distinction. And Bolt’s triple-triple, consecutive Olympic golds in the 100, 200 and sprint relay, may last as long as our galaxy.

From the host nation’s perspective, it would have to be Neymar, who scored the lone goal and the decisive penalty kick as Brazil won its first Olympic title in soccer. Neymar was Sidney Crosby 2010 redux: the athlete assuring soul-salving gold in his country’s national sport.

From a U.S. perspective, the choice isn’t as clear-cut, as Sports Illustrated showed with a cover featuring swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles, whom it called, “The Greatests.” Plural.

While that SI issue focused on just the first week of Olympic action, the three cover athletes essentially played a successful game of “Can you top this?” Ledecky won four gold medals and a silver and set two world records; Phelps won five golds and a silver, improving his record Olympic totals to 23 golds and 28 total; Biles won four golds, a bronze and the acclaim of venerable coach Martha Karolyi as the greatest gymnast of all time.

Whether you think someone topped those three as the No. 1 Team USA athlete will depend on whether you think an athlete who did brilliantly in his or her only Olympic event should get equal credit with athletes whose sports provide the opportunity to win multiple medals.

I tend to come down on the side of multiples, especially when the achievements were as remarkable as those of Ledecky, Phelps and Biles. If forced to pick one, I would go for…nope, not doing that. Sorry. Don’t want to be trolled to distraction.