Peter Vidmar's sudden resignation May 5 as United States Olympic Committee chef de mission for the 2012 London Summer Olympics has drawn plenty of reaction.
Vidmar, a member of the LDS Church and two-time 1984 Olympic gold medal winner, stepped down after word spread that he donated $2,000 and participated in two rallies to support traditional marriage of a man and a woman during the Proposition 8 debate in California in 2008. Vidmar was appointed to the position on April 28.
“The church wanted to take a stand on the issue, and they invited their members to take a stand,” he told the Chicago Tribune, in explaining that his opposition to same-sex marriage comes from his religious views. “I chose to be involved.”
"I have dedicated my life to the Olympic movement and the ideals of excellence, friendship and respect. I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction," Vidmar said in a statement reported by USA Today.
Criticism came from Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir and Aimee Mullins, the former president of the Women's Sports Foundation and chef de mission for the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Games team. Former Olympic softball player Jessica Mendoza, a left fielder for the 2004 and 2008 medal-winning teams, was vocal about her frustration over Vidmar's stance.
"It would tear my heart to think any athlete would feel they are excluded, especially from the ambassadors the USOC has chosen," she also told the Chicago Tribune.
But Vidmar has supporters, as well.
John Naber, winner of four 1976 Olympic gold medals in swimming, said the USOC was "absolutely correct" in selecting Vidmar.
"Peter believes and practices the Olympic ideals of integrity, sportsmanship and respect for the universal, fundamental ethical principles,'' Naber said. "Peter would never knowingly disrespect, offend or alienate anyone, much less a member of any U.S. Olympic team.''
Naber, 55, now works as a television commentator and, like Vidmar, is a motivational speaker.
"I believe Peter is pro-family, not anti-anything,'' Naber added, responding to a quesion about Vidmar's involvement in Proposition 8.
Frank DeFord referenced Peter Vidmar in a recent NPR essay. DeFord is supportive of gay athletes in professional sports but also expressed support for Vidmar.
"Let us encourage the U.S. Olympic Committee to plead with Vidmar to rejoin the American team," DeFord said. "(He is) an honorable gentleman, whom we can all respect, whether or not we agree with one opinion of his."
USOC executives also expressed confidence in Vidmar's ability to represent all athletes, notwithstanding his stance toward marriage.
"Peter is respected the world-over for his dedication and commitment to the Olympic movement and is rightly considered one of America's great Olympic champions," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun told Fox News, who also reported that the USOC has yet to announce Vidmar's replacement. "I believe Peter would have served our athletes well, but given the nature of this issue, I certainly respect his decision to resign. As we look toward London 2012 and the selection of Peter's replacement, we'll do so with the sole intent of showcasing America's best and brightest stars and the inspirational story that each member of our Olympic team has to share."
All the publicity is something Vidmar said he wishes is soon forgotten.
"The sooner we can get back to helping focus on London and our athletes, the better," he said by email to the New York Times.
In another New York Times piece, writer Juliet Macur quoted a Facebook friend of Mendoza who disagreed with her stance.
"It is sad for the Olympic movement — and makes me sad too. Peter Vidmar should be leading. NOBODY holds the views of ALL the athletes, and marriage has NOTHING to do with competition.”
Contributing: Rhett Wilkinson, Trent Toone
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