Friday, May 6, 2011

USOC Chooses Anti-LGBT Activist as Chef De Mission

The United State Olympic Committee (USOC) has named former gold medal winning gymnast Peter Vidmar as chef de mission for the 2012 London Olympics. Vidmar, a Mormon, is a public opponent of extending the right to marry to lesbian and gay people. He donated $2,000 to the successful Prop 8 anti-gay marriage initiative in California in 2008 and spoke at a public rally opposing same-sex marriage. Johnny Weir, an openly gay Olympic figure skater criticized the USOC choice in an article in the Chicago Tribune.

Apparently the USOC was not aware of Vidmar’s public role in opposing same-sex marriage rights when they appointed him chef de mission. Now that it has been brought to their attention, the USOC has defended their choice of Vidmar citing his views as part of his protected freedom of religion rights and acknowledging that many Americans do not share his views.

The USOC might want to be a little more careful in the future in vetting the candidates for such a highly visible position that is supposed to represent all US Olympians at the Games. The impression is that the USOC does not consider opposition to LGBT rights that big of a deal. Certainly, it is not a disqualifier for being named to a very prestigious position. I don’t like to make comparisons between LGBT civil rights and other civil rights movements, like the Black civil rights movement, the women’s movement, or the disability rights movement to try to make the point that opposition to these civil rights issues would be a disqualifier. However, it is an indication, however faulty, of what the USOC priorities are. I don’t believe they would have supported a chef de mission who opposed these civil rights movements.

Let’s not forget that in the early 80’s the USOC sued what was then called “The Gay Olympics” over the use of the word “Olympic.” That quadrennial event is now called the “Gay Games” as a result. Never mind that the USOC had no objection to the use of “Olympics” to describe other competitions like hot dog eating contests, the Police Olympics or the Special Olympics.

Yes, Peter Vidmar has a right to his anti-gay views. I even support his right to express them, but please, don’t try to have it both ways. In the Tribune article Vidmar claims, ``I fully respect the rights of everyone to have the relationships they want to have. I respect the rights of all our athletes, regardless of their race, their religion or their sexual orientation. I will cheer and do all I can, passionately, for every athlete on the U.S. Olympic team.'' If he really “respected the rights” of LGBT people, he wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars and be speaking out publicly to prevent us from having equal marriage rights.

The USOC has made a public statement in choosing Vidmar: They don’t consider public opposition to LGBT rights in or out of sport to be of great importance. It’s just a matter of personal opinion and religious freedom. That the USOC is comfortable with an anti-LGBT activist representing the USOC and all USA Olympians in London is a sad commentary on their commitment to LGBT equality in sport. No wonder so many LGBT Olympians choose to compete from the closet.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Vidmar most certainly does have the right to his views and the LGBT crew has the right to compete.

Equal rights doesn't include the cultural normalization of sexual disfunction. Vidmar doesn't have to be a LGBT advocate to be qualified for this position and frankly your suggestion that he does is unreasonable at best. Frankly I lived in Long Beach during the Prop 8 dust up when a bunch of gay activists got several people fired for exercising their right to contribute to whatever cause they believed in. It was an ugly situation and exposed the gay community for what it really was.

Your constant chicken little act relative to making sports a social cause to promote you and your friends' issues does nothing but alienate many who have no particular problem with your preference in sexual partners but are sick of your constant complaining.

You are on a very slippery slope with the tone of this post. Vidmar can respect everyone's rights and contribute to whatever he wants to in spite of you and your friends desire to change the world.

Bernie said...

Interesting comment. Every culture approves or does not approve certain behaviors, and this changes with time. What was once sexual "deviation" in the U.S. is now considered normal behavior. The key is that there are a range of gender sexualities that are reflected in the individuals who participate in sport. What is disturbing about Vidmar's appointment is that the USOC claims it was not aware of his beliefs when he was appointed. The USOC has a long history of discrimination (for example, against women), which is what creates the environment to question the appointment.

Anonymous said...

You suggest that Peter Vidmar is being inconsistent when he states he respects the rights of everyone:

'If he really “respected the rights” of LGBT people, he wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars and be speaking out publicly to prevent us from having equal marriage rights.'

His position is that there is no right to marry someone of the same gender. Therefore, his statement becomes inconsistent only if his use of the word "rights" includes a right to marry someone of the same gender.

Clearly, you believe there is a right to marry someone of the same gender. You have imposed your definition of the word "rights" onto Vidmar's statement. In doing so, you suggest he's being disingenuous or, at least, unintentionally illogical.

The discussion should be "1) is there or isn't there a right to gay marriage? and 2) does one's opinion on the issue disqualify one from the USOC position?" You stray from that discussion when you invalidly indict Vidmar for doubletalk.

You believe there is a right to marry. You are entitled to that opinion. You are not entitled, however, to replace Vidmar's definition of rights with your definition in Vidmar's statement. I imagine doing so was unintentional on your part, likely a product of your passion for the subject. Please be more careful before you question someone's integrity, an easy trap to fall in when you disagree with that person's opinion.

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