Amid Pressure From Nassar Case, USOC Chief Executive Scott Blackmun Will Step Down
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee has stepped down. According to the USOC, Scott Blackmun resigned due to health issues. Pressure had been building for changes to committee leadership after multiple stories of sexual misconduct by Olympic coaches and staff. Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins joins us now. Hi, there.
SALLY JENKINS: Hi.
SHAPIRO: You're one of many columnists who have called for a total overhaul of USOC leadership. Do you think Blackmun's exit is due more to those sorts of critiques or to the health problems that he cited?
JENKINS: Oh, I think it's definitely a response to the absolute catastrophe at the United States Olympic Committee with these sexual abuse cases. I mean, this is far, far from over. I think there are more disclosures to come. There's more investigating to be done.
SHAPIRO: More disclosures, more investigating - do you think more resignations?
JENKINS: Oh, I think so. I mean, I think they're in for a thorough reorganization. I think there'll be other resignations. I think Congress is going to take a really strong hand at this point. I think there's a big demand among athletes for really a full investigation. I don't think we know the whole truth yet.
SHAPIRO: In the announcement today, the U.S. Olympic Committee highlighted what it calls additional reforms and new initiatives designed to protect athletes from abuse and respond quickly and effectively when issues surface. Do you think the committee can change from within? Is it up to this task?
JENKINS: I don't think so. I think this is classic crisis management. These are, you know, these are measures that should have been taken two years ago, if not 30 years ago. You know, I really - I don't think any athletes have faith that the USOC is truly self-investigating or in a position to self-correct.
SHAPIRO: And setting aside the sexual misconduct allegations, you've also talked about the incredible pay disparities. More than 100 USOC staff earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, while the Women's Olympic Hockey Squad, to take one example, was paid $6,000 in four years. Do you think the committee has recognized that that is also a problem?
JENKINS: I don't believe so. I think that the marketers are really at the center of that organization and have convinced themselves that they're somehow more important than the actual athletes. You know, the athletes are the real engine of the Olympic movement, they're the real financial engine. They are the people that sponsors want to sponsor and audiences want to see. And I think the business people somehow persuaded themselves that they were the real rainmakers. And I think we need to turn the organization on its head.
The athletes need to be the center of the movement, not the periphery of the movement.
SHAPIRO: Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins, thank you for your time.
JENKINS: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: She was speaking with us about the resignation of the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.