SEATTLE, JULY 31 -- U.S. Olympic Committee President Robert Helmick said today the organization will wait three weeks before it makes any decision on the status of influential USOC vice president George Steinbrenner, who agreed to resign as New York Yankees general partner Monday.
The USOC, which has been put in the awkward position of dealing with matters related to another sport, will take up the Steinbrenner issue at its regularly scheduled executive committee meeting Aug. 22 in Colorado Springs, Helmick said.
"It would be inappropriate to act hastily," Helmick said in a telephone interview this afternoon. "I have not seen the total agreement between George and Fay Vincent. It's a complex agreement and decision, but it's not a straightforward suspension. So we'll have to look into the situation, talk to George and discuss the matter at our executive committee meeting."
Helmick added the situation is "a serious matter and we must direct attention to it. We have a special responsibility to the Olympic movement and the citizens of the United States."
Helmick said he spoke with Steinbrenner Monday night about the decision of Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.
The USOC constitution says the USOC board of directors, which has 100 voting members to the executive committee's 16, has the "authority to elect the officers of the USOC and to remove the same for cause."
But Helmick said Steinbrenner will not be forced out. If he leaves the USOC, it will be because he resigns.
"There is not going to be removal for cause," Helmick said. "We have no real procedure for that. George has always made it clear that he wants to do what's best for the Olympic athletes and the Olympic movement. George has always told me that if there is a problem, he would change his relationship with the USOC."
Steinbrenner, who joined the USOC in 1985 as a public sector member of the now defunct executive board, was elected to a four-year term as one of three USOC vice presidents in February 1989. He could not be reached for comment.
Many of those within the USOC contacted today said the problem the organization faces is not with Steinbrenner, but with the public perception of the man disciplined by Vincent.
"That's the whole point, that's the problem," said Robert Kane, USOC president from 1977 to 1981 and a member of the USOC board of directors. "The public perception is everything."
"The whole thing is a conflict between his image and his behavior outside the USOC and what we've always seen within the USOC," said Christopher Wood, a Seattle consultant and former Olympic rower who is a member of the USOC executive committee and board of directors.
"He has been such a positive element that it's hard for some of us to react to all of this."
However, Kane said the USOC knew what it was getting when Helmick appointed Steinbrenner to chair the powerful, newly formed Olympic Overview Commission at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
"Bob Helmick invited him in, so it's his problem," said Kane, who is retired and lives in Ithaca, N.Y. "George was not well-acquainted with the Olympic movement, so to have him as an officer probably was not correct. I wish he weren't in such a prominent position now, even though he has been dignified and rational."
Some saw Steinbrenner as a refreshing change of pace in what had been a stagnant organization.
"He has been a voice of reason, a voice of a little bit of the real world and the world outside international sports," said Wood. "He looks at things with common sense, a little more businesslike."
If Steinbrenner resigns from the USOC, he would leave an organization that is much stronger, in large part because of him, said USOC officials.
"We've gone light years in the areas of finance and structure in the last five years," Helmick said, "and those are George's fortes."
"Said Wood: "If he were to leave, is he leaving us in better shape now than when he found us? Yes."