Peter Vidmar has resigned at chief of mission for the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 after controversy erupted over his vigorous opposition to gay marriage. Said Vidmar in a statement:
"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.
"I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage."
As Vidmar's views on gay marriage and support of California's Prop. 8 were becoming widely known since first reported by Outsports last week, it was becoming more of an issue. Johnny Weir spoke out against Vidmar yesterday, as did Jessica Mendoza, a two-time Olympic softball player and past president of the Women's Sports Foundation, who told Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune:
"I have worked with Peter Vidmar at different Olympic events, and I think he is incredibly inspirational, so I can see why the USOC made the decision (to choose him)," Mendoza said Friday by telephone.
"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."
His "personal religious beliefs" quit being solely personal when he injected himself into a public policy debate, actively campaigning for Prop. 8. While Vidmar clearly had his supporters at the USOC, this issue was poised to become a distraction, so Vidmar decided to opt out. What we don't know is whether the USOC helped push him out or whether this was solely his call.