Excerpts of Vidmar steps down as U.S. Olympic chef de mission by Philip Hersh, Chicago Tribune
Peter Vidmar stepped down Friday as chef de mission of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in the wake of a controversy over whether his public opposition to same-sex marriage made him the right person to be symbolic head of the team that will compete at the London Summer Games.
In a statement from the U.S. Olympic Committee, Vidmar said, ``I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States. I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family.
Vidmar had told the Tribune his opposition to same-sex marriage came from exercising his religious freedom as a Mormon.
The Church of Latter-day Saints considers same-sex marriage immoral.
In a statement provided to the Tribune earlier this week, Blackmun had reaffirmed the choice of Vidmar, saying, ``We respect Peter's right to religious freedom, and we understand and respect the fact that many Americans do not share his views.''
The USOC does not have a timetable for replacing Vidmar, whom it named as chief of mission just eight days ago.
Earlier Friday, before the resignation was announced, two U.S. Olympic champions, softball player Jessica Mendoza and swimmer John Naber, expressed opposite opinions on whether Vidmar should be the chief of mission.
Mendoza, a two-time Olympian and past president of the Women's Sports Foundation, said she was ``very disappointed'' the USOC intended to keep Vidmar in the role after learning of his public opposition to same-sex marriage.
Mendoza said she found Vidmar ``incredibly inspirational'' as a speaker but nevertheless the wrong choice.
``However, given his stance with Proposition 8, (especially) with my having many teammates that are openly gay and knowing there will be a number of athletes that are gay in the Olympics next year, I am very disappointed the USOC is moving forward with this decision. The Olympics is to be inclusive of everyone, regardless of race, gender or sexuality.''
Vidmar, 49, winner of two 1984 Olympic gymnastics gold medals, participated in two demonstrations and donated $2,000 for the successful 2008 Proposition 8 ballot initiative in California to define marriage as between a man and a woman, overturning a California Supreme Court ruling that permitted same-sex marriage.
Speaking Friday before Vidmar resigned, Aimee Mullins, the chef de mission of the 2012 U.S. Paralympic team, told USA Today she was ``concerned and deeply saddened'' about Vidmar's past anti-gay marriage activism.
``The Olympic movement is about promoting equity for all,'' said Mullins, also a past president of the Women's Sports Foundation.
``It would tear my heart to think any athlete would feel they are excluded, especially from the ambassadors the USOC has chosen,'' Mendoza said.
Mendoza said she was particularly upset with the USOC's response when informed about Vidmar's advocating for Proposition 8.
``The USOC response seeing it as `Everyone has the freedom of religion' has nothing to do with this,'' Mendoza said. ``It is that he stood up against something that many of our athletes are and represent.''