March 5, 2018
Olympic committee chief abdicates over scandal
Members of Team USA are still dealing with the fallout from an ongoing scandal related to the long-term sex abuse by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. Recently, US Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun stepped down due to the continuing negative attention brought by the abuse scandal. Blackmun had been considered a popular and effective leader, praised for helping Team USA maintain a good relationship with the International Olympic Committee and for helping the US land yet another Summer Games. But, when headlines about Nassar and the perceived slow response of Team USA officials to the scandal, continued to flow, Blackmun began taking some heat.
Eventually, it seems, that heat got to be too much, though that’s not the story Team USA is telling. US Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst says Blackmun is resigning due to “health issues,” stemming from recent surgery for prostate cancer. According to Probst, Blackmun still has more treatments, so he feels it’s time to step away and focus on his health.
Speaking to various media sources, Probst was blunt about the reasons and the conversation he had with Blackmun leading up to the resignation:
“Given Scott’s current health situation, we have mutually agreed it is in the best interest of both Scott and the USOC that we identify new leadership so that we can immediately address the urgent initiatives ahead of us…”
Those “urgent initiatives,” of course, include rebuilding the reputation of the USOC after months of scandal-ridden headlines. Probst apparently believes that can be better accomplished with new leadership in the chief’s seat.
Blackmun didn’t comment on that in a statement announcing his resignation:
“Serving the USOC and its many stakeholders and working with our board, our professional staff and many others who support the Olympic and Paralympic movements has not only been immensely rewarding, it has been an honor and the highlight of my professional life… I am proud of what we have achieved as a team and am confident that (new leadership) will help the USOC continue to embody the Olympic spirit and champion Team USA athletes during this transition…”
It’s not surprising Blackmun chose to avoid the negative narratives that have dogged his final year in his position. Some have accused him of “improperly managing” reports from three Team USA athletes complaining of abuse by Nassar. The USOC continue to defend Blackmun’s handling of that report, but many outside the organization believe that could have certainly played a role in his resignation.
Regardless of the reasons, it’s going to be difficult for both Blackmun and Team USA to move beyond this connection with a trusted doctor and now convicted serial sexual abuser many have called “a monster.”
Ronn Torossian is the CEO and founder of 5W Public Relations.