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USOC ‘failing’ on diversity, new task force hoping for change

By: BRIAN GOMEZ
November 18, 2011
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photo - Anita DeFrantz is one of two black women on the U.S. Olympic Committee executive team and USOC board. The USOC wants to become more diverse, as 91 percent of USOC managers are white and 64 percent are men, with two female chief executive officers among 47 national governing bodies, which report boards that are 91 percent white and membership that is 85 percent white, according to a USOC study. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Anita DeFrantz is one of two black women on the U.S. Olympic Committee executive team and USOC board. The USOC wants to become more diverse, as 91 percent of USOC managers are white and 64 percent are men, with two female chief executive officers among 47 national governing bodies, which report boards that are 91 percent white and membership that is 85 percent white, according to a USOC study. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Scott Blackmun passes through the U.S. Olympic Committee’s downtown headquarters, and the USOC chief executive officer sees few women, few Hispanics and even fewer blacks. He sees mostly white men – staffers who look just like him. And he knows the USOC must become more diverse.

The Colorado Springs-based USOC gives itself a “failing grade” on diversity, Blackmun said – 91 percent of USOC managers are white and 64 percent are men, with two female CEOs among 47 national governing bodies, which report boards that are 91 percent white and membership that is 85 percent white, according to a USOC study.

A USOC diversity working group, established this year with USA Archery CEO Denise Parker as chair and USA Swimming CEO Chuck Wielgus a part of the nine-person team, made recommendations to the USOC board during the board’s last meeting, in September in the Springs. Next year, the USOC plans to hire a director of diversity, and it also will create a diversity toolkit for NGBs and incorporate diversity in its annual NGB seminar.

“This is going to be a priority for the USOC,” Blackmun said, emphasizing that he wants “measurable progress in the next two to three years.” He added, “It’s not just an issue of women and minorities. The whole issue is much broader than that, whether you’re talking about disabilities or sexual orientation or religion. … It’s not something you can change overnight. And we really want to kind of change the whole nature of the dialogue.”

The USOC is a regular participant in NGB summits on diversity, including the one USA Swimming hosted last week at the Olympic Training Center. Plus, several other Springs-based NGBs have diversity task forces, most notably USA Wrestling, with OTC residents Clarissa Chun and Leigh Jaynes sitting on the committee that formed last year.

Yet the USOC has had only one black CEO in Lloyd Ward, whose 16-month tenure was halted in 2003 over cries of ethics violations, and one female CEO in Stephanie Streeter, who tossed the torch to Blackmun last year after 10 months in which she was ripped for replacing Jim Scherr. Of the 31 members of the USOC executive team and USOC board, there are 17 white men, including chair Larry Probst; two black men in Walt Glover and Jair Lynch; and 12 women, two of whom are black in Ursula Burns and Anita DeFrantz.

The diversity working group’s mission statement notes the USOC “embraces the spirit of differences for better athletic performance and business results.” And it all starts with the USOC board, Probst said, stressing “we have to set the right example. Those things will be taken into consideration as we look to fill two board seats that come up next year.”

Blackmun said the USOC is serious about diversity, not only “because it’s the right thing to do. We’re doing this to help drive our business results, to help drive our competitive results and get more people in the pipeline to enhance our membership bases. We’re not doing this because we have to. We’re doing this because it will make us much better.”

Contact Brian Gomez: 719-636-0256 or brian.gomez@gazette.com. Twitter: @gazetteolympics. Facebook: Brian Gomez. For more Olympic coverage, visit www.gazette.com/olympics

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