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Truce? USOC boss calls critics 'vocal minority'

Streeter There already is strain in that truce between the National Governing Bodies and the U.S. Olympic Committee leadership.

Why?

One day after she made a public commitment to better dialogue with the NGBs – the individual governing bodies for Olympic sports in the United States – the acting chairwoman of the USOC dissed those NGB leaders who have opposed some of her actions as a "vocal minority.’’

Stephanie Streeter used that categorization in a Thursday news conference at the U.S. Olympic media summit, a meeting that allows media one-stop shopping with many of the country’s potential 2010 Winter Olympians and top USOC officials.

Since I had made a point of noting the truce in a Wednesday entry on this Blog, I also made it a point of questioning Streeter about the "vocal minority" label, since the more vocal critics included the chairman and a member of the NGB Council.

I also could have told her that a lot of other NGB leaders had been equally dismayed by the USOC board’s dismissal of Jim Scherr as chief executive in March – and Streeter’s previously deaf ear to their concerns since her taking over in what looked like a coup d’etat, since she was among the board members who ousted Scherr.

Those federation bosses had preferred to stay publicly silent and let the NGB council leadership speak for them.

This is what Streeter said about the NGBs during the news conference:

“Change is hard. From their perspective, there has been a fair amount of change, and they weren’t necessarily involved in some of the discussions around that change. I think there are 45 different NGBs, and they’re not unanimous in anything that they do, let alone their relationship and how they feel about things with the USOC.

"I think there’s a vocal minority, and any time you have a situation where you’ve got a group with a checkbook and more funding and others who are sometimes reliant on that, there are issues. We would be no different than any other organizations that work like that. We’re making a commitment to listen, to be involved, to have discussions, to work together toward our mission. I think we’ve made a lot of progress, and we’ll continue to do that.”

And this is what she said to my calling her out on the "vocal minority" put down:

"I’m not dismissing them at all.  There are other members of the NGB Council who have not been part of that vocal minority.  Any time you have 45 people involved in things who are passionate, you’re going to have differences of opinion.  I think we are working together to get on the same page."

NGB Council member Steve Penny, the president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics (one of the most important federations, given TV interest in the sport and its recent record of Olympic success), has been part of that "vocal minority."

Penny has always kept his public comments temperate.

I asked Penny in an e-mail what he thought about Streeter’s dismissive remarks Thursday.  His reply, also in an e-mail:

"There is really nothing to say other than I am confident that many of my colleagues share similar thoughts and concerns about doing what is in the best interest of the Olympic Movement, providing our athletes with the best possible support, and helping Chicago bring the Olympics back to the United States."

One thing is clear: If Stephanie Streeter wants to get everyone on the same page, she still has to turn over a new leaf in the book on management style.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: U.S. Olympic Committee chief Stephanie Streeter. Credit: Associated Press

 
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