A little over a week ago, former Olympic gymnast Peter Vidmar was named chief of mission for the U.S. Olympic team by the USOC. Almost immediately, word of his strong stance against gay marriage spread to media outlets and blogs, and just a few days later, Vidmar resigned the position.
I've been to USOC events where Vidmar was the guest speaker. He was an immediate role model and an incredibly inspirational speaker. When I heard he had been chosen by the USOC, along with past Women's Sports Foundation president and Paralympian Aimee Mullins, it seemed like a natural fit. But then I too read about his active support (including a $2,000 personal donation) of California's Proposition 8, the ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. Immediately, I thought of all the gay Olympic athletes he would be representing next summer.
Gay rights has been a hot topic throughout the country, but it's especially poignant among athletes. Gay teammates have told me that they feel it's the last remaining discrimination in sport. Sports is supposed to be a safe place -- where hard work and a common goal among teammates overrides any bigotry that might exist outside the lines. Regardless of anyone's personal or religious beliefs, no person should ever feel they cannot be who they are.
If I were competing in next year's Olympics, I would want the appointments made by the USOC to represent all of the USA. The Olympic Games are known for setting the standard on inclusiveness in sport. Once Vidmar went public with his stance against gay marriage, he excluded specific Olympic athletes from feeling that they belonged. This may not have been his intention. But would it have been OK for him to speak out against rights for those of a different race, gender or religion? Discrimination based on sexuality should be seen as just as detrimental. With Vidmar's resignation, I know we are finally moving in the right direction.