Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In 1968, gay Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell had Tommie Smith’s back. Now Smith has insulted his legacy by contrasting 'human rights' with 'gay rights'

Also: how Sochi officials will break gay "propaganda" law each time they play U.S. national anthem during a medal ceremony

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City during the medal ceremonies following the 200-meter race, the U.S. gold and bronze medalists, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos, both shoeless in solidarity with the impoverished, put their gloved fists in the air in a black power salute to focus attention on the plight of blacks in America.
     Photos of that moment are probably the most famous ever taken at an Olympiad.
The two athletes were booed and forced out of the Games by the president of the International Olympic Committee at the time, Avery Brundage, although they were NOT stripped of their medals.
     That wasn't the only fallout. The third man on the podium, silver medalist Australian Peter Norman, was vilified at home for wearing his Olympic Project for Human Rights badge in solidarity.
     Then there was the (closeted) gay Army Captain, Dr. Tom Waddell, who served as the U.S. team physician, who reputedly helped Smith and Carlos polish their statements to the press, and who said publicly that they had "been discredited by the flag more often than they have discredited it."
     For his unqualified support, Waddell was threatened with a court martial, never carried out because he placed 6th of 33 competitors in the decathlon, much better than the Army had expected their hastily-prepped best hope to have fared in the games. From People:
He finally graduated in 1965 from the New Jersey College of Medicine. During an Army tour he refused assignment to Vietnam and worked in the antiwar movement off-duty hours. The brass gladly shunted him off to the Army track team in 1968. Despite the fact that he trained only three months (Bruce Jenner spent four years) and took time off to write press releases for black power advocates on the team, Waddell nearly won a medal for the U.S.
     Now, 45 years later, there are rumblings of Olympic protests over Russia's escalating abuse of its LGBT citizens and threats by the International Olympic Committee to come down hard on LGBT athletes who stage "political" demonstrations simply by saying — or showing — who they are.
     And what does civil rights champion Tommie Smith think about that — about the civil rights of LGBT Russians and gay athletes who could be the grandchildren of the man who unreservedly supported him?
The waiter tortured in this Russian picure may already
be dead.
Authorities are harassing a 72-year-old mother and
her physician son, Dr. Valentin Degtyarev, MD, who closely
monitors the infamous neoNazi group “Occupy Pedofilyaj.”
No arrests have been made.
     Not much apparently. In fact, Smith coldly, condescendingly separated "human rights" from "gay rights" in comments he just made to the AP's Andrew Dampf in Italy:
     It's always a question about issues. Like I was back in `68 when it was a human rights issue," Smith added. "Now it's a gay rights issue. They have to make their minds up how they feel about a particular situation. They need to figure it out. I won't do it for them. I have my own feelings."
     The 69-year-old Smith is not a firm supporter of gays.
     "Do I approve of it? I don't believe so, because I believe in the Bible and it doesn't really give leeway in this," Smith said.
     In 1982, Tom Waddell founded what he intended to call the Gay Olympic Games, until the United States Olympic Committee filed a petition to seek an injunction from allowing the games to use the Olympic title.
Although previously the Rat Olympics, Police Olympics, Dog Olympics and Special Olympics had all gone unchallenged, the USOC felt that the use of the name in a homosexual event would tarnish the reputation of their trademark. The injunction was eventually granted and hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise and signage had to be removed from the event in order to adhere with the court's decree.
The Gay Olympic Games were redubbed the Gay Games and were a great success, "perhaps because they emphasized sportsmanship, personal achievement, and inclusiveness to a far greater degree than the Olympics."
     In 1981, Waddell had met public-relations man and fundraiser Zohn Artman, with whom he fell in love and began a relationship. That same year, Waddell, who had longed to be a father, also met lesbian athlete Sara Lewinstein and they decided to have a child together. Their daughter Jessica was born in 1983 and they were married in 1985.
     In 1985, Waddell was diagnosed with AIDS. Although dogged by the lawsuit filed by the U.S.O.C. to recover legal fees in the battle over the right to use the word "Olympics," Waddell lived his final years with bravery and dignity. He saw the enormous success of Gay Games II in 1986, and even participated in it, winning a gold medal in the Javelin event.
     Waddell died on July 11, 1987 with the enormous grace and courage that marked his life. His last words were "Well, this should be interesting."
     The battle over the right to use the term "Gay Olympics" continued in the courts and was not finally settled until 1987, when the Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision, ruled in favor of the U.S.O.C. and affirmed the U.S.O.C.'s right to collect legal fees from Waddell.

Dick Schaap on Tom Waddell:
     The final weeks of his life were torture for Waddell. The Supreme Court of the United States, by a vote of five to four, ruled in favor of the USOC, against the Gay Games' use of the word Olympic. Tom said it [the Supreme Court decision]  wasn't really a defeat, that the mere fact that the case had gone to the Supreme Court had exposed the pettiness and silliness of the USOC's homophobic position. The Supreme Court didn't dampen his spirit. But AIDS did.
     I knew him for only seven months, but he may have been the most impressive human being I ever met. Certainly he was the most impressive athlete. He combined strength and sensitivity, intelligence and courage, compassion and competitiveness, in dazzling doses. He contradicted all the stereotypes of both the athlete and the homosexual.
     I met Tom Waddell because I wanted to do a story about him for ABC's 20/20 program. I met him when he was dying. When I started to research his story, I called a United States Olympic Committee official, an old friend, and asked him how I could get in touch with Toomey. He asked me why I wanted to reach Toomey, and I said I was doing a story about Waddell.
     "Why do you want to do a story about some fag and some dyke having a kid?" the USOC official asked.
     When Waddell died, $96,600 in liens were still attached to his Victorian house and other property because the USOC's attorney, Vaughn Walker, a partner in Pillsbury Madison & Sutro (now Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman) refused to release them. Walker said that Mary Dunlap, Waddell's attorney, never asked him to. Dunlap replied, essentially, that he was lying:
Ms. Dunlap contended that Walker ''misrepresented the facts'' to the committee by telling senators that she had done nothing to obtain an order removing the liens. Ms. Dunlap said that she and Waddell's estate lawyer repeatedly tried without success to get Walker to sign a release.
     This caused incredible distress to Waddell in the last days of his life, as he worried that his daughter might not inherit his house. The liens were not released until six days after Waddell died.
     Senator Patrick Leahy asked Walker about that during his confirmation hearing following his nomination to the federal bench:
     ...He [Walker] added that in his opinion, ''The liens were ineffective after the court of appeals judgment'' which vacated them.
     If that were so, Leahy asked, ''Why didn't you sign the release?''
     ''The client [U.S. Olympic Committee] wanted to pursue it,'' Walker said.
And why were the liens that Vaughn Walker and the USOC slapped on Waddell's property vacated by an appellate court?
¶26 On remand, the trial court should determine how much of the work was reasonably necessary. Most of the counts advanced by plaintiffs appear to have been ignored after the initial pleading. Plaintiffs' primary argument in its motion for attorneys' fees has been abandoned on appeal. If, after a Kerr and Sealy hearing, fees are to be awarded, the court should examine both the reasonableness and necessity for the rather impressive amount of time accumulated on this case.
¶27 The injunction is affirmed with costs. The fee award is vacated and remanded.

No comments:

Post a Comment