U.S. Olympic Committee President Robert Helmick wants to quickly settle the question of George Steinbrenner's USOC status because the issue has started to "distract us from talking about athletes."
The issue of Steinbrenner's vice presidency is expected to be one of the key topics at the USOC executive committee's two-day meeting, starting today, in Colorado Springs.
In another development, two part-owners of the New York Yankees pressed ahead with their lawsuit to keep Steinbrenner in charge, even after Steinbrenner's faxed resignation arrived at the commissioner's office yesterday.
"I sure can't call it a victory, but it's not over till it's over," Mark B. Cohn, attorney for the suing partners, said after he filed an appeal yesterday in an attempt to restore Steinbrenner as the Yankees' managing general partner.
U.S. District Judge Alice M. Batchelder refused Monday night to issue a temporary restraining order that would have temporarily invalidated the July 30 settlement under which Steinbrenner agreed to quit. The settlement with Commissioner Fay Vincent was reached after Vincent ruled Steinbrenner's association with gambler Howard Spira was bad for baseball.
Although a decision on a temporary restraining order technically cannot be appealed, Cohn asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati for a stay of Batchelder's decision. A three-judge panel has been assigned to hear Cohn's arguments on behalf of limited partners Daniel R. McCarthy and Harold M. Bowman, said Debra Nagle, spokeswoman for the appeals court. No date was set for a hearing.
On the Olympic front, though Helmick said he would not make an official recommendation about Steinbrenner to the 16-member executive committee, he hoped an agreement could be reached before the meeting ended.
"Half my days have been taken up with this issue rather than policy matters," Helmick said in New York. "This issue has begun to take out time and distract us from talking about athletes. We have to find ways we can remove ourselves from this issue and get on to other matters."
Steinbrenner is a member of the executive committee and of the USOC board of directors. The 120-person board, which meets in October, can remove Steinbrenner by majority vote. The executive committee only makes recommendations.
He discounted a report that he would recommend Steinbrenner take a leave of absence from the USOC. "That does not accurately reflect my position," Helmick said. "I will not be making a recommendation. The matter is on the agenda for the executive committee meeting. We have been discussing it individually as to the different views and possibilities. This being a representative body . . . it's only appropriate for them to make a decision when they're all together and they have an opportunity to discuss it face-to-face."
Steinbrenner has said he agreed to give up control of the Yankees instead of accepting a two-year suspension in hope of preserving his USOC role.