COLORADO SPRINGS, AUG. 22 -- The U.S. Olympic Committee's executive committee placed George Steinbrenner, a USOC vice president the last 18 months, on inactive status tonight "until matters of concern have been resolved."
"The position of vice president is not vacant. George will just remain inactive," USOC President Robert Helmick said late tonight.
The committee's decision was relayed to Steinbrenner, who was recently forced to give up his ownership of the New York Yankees baseball club because of his involvement with, and payments to, gambler Howard Spira.
Steinbrenner said in a statement: "It is evident to me that the events of the past few weeks involving myself and Major League Baseball have caused an undue amount of focus on my activities within the U.S. Olympic Committee. I think it is only right that in the best interests of the Olympic movement that we allow things to settle for a while so that the main focus can return to the governing bodies and the athletes where it belongs.
"I have informed President Bob Helmick that I wish to back away from the everyday involvement for a while to allow any matters of concern to be clarified."
The news came just minutes before midnight, ending a day of maneuvering by members of the executive committee trying to decide on a recommendation on Steinbrenner's future with the organization.
The committee began meeting at 2 p.m. at the Broadmoor Hotel, while Steinbrenner remained in his hotel a few hundred yards away. Steinbrenner didn't appear during the afternoon session but was kept abreast of developments, a USOC official said.
Helmick said the committee reached a "near unanimous" decision on the inactive status in about hour or so this afternooon. The committee took that decision to Steinbrenner, and it was discussed for another hour or so, Helmick said.
"He wanted some time to think about it," Helmick said, and the committee adjourned to attend a reception for International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch. Later, they met for another hour with Steinbrenner, who wrote his statement accepting the committee's decision.
Asked if Steinbrenner was asked to resign, Helmick said, "No, he was not."
Steinbrenner had said in recent days that he would abide by any decision reached by the executive committee. While the USOC constitution permits removal of an officer "for cause," any vote by executive committee members would take the form of a recommendation to be acted upon by the organization's board of directors.
Steinbrenner said earlier this month, "I would like to continue my work with the Olympic committee. But I will abide by the consensus of opinion. If they feel they don't want me, then, fine. I will resign. I certainly don't want to hurt anybody. I want to do what's in the best interest of the Olympic committee."
Steinbrenner had said his role as a vice president with the USOC is "the one thing that means the most to me right now."
Steinbrenner, the former general partner of the Yankees, had been roundly praised for his largesse, bureaucratic skills and business contacts during 18 months with the USOC.
In recent days, however, Helmick and other committee members have acknowledged the controversy surrounding Steinbrenner and baseball has made it increasingly difficult to conduct the organization's daily business. Steinbrenner's inactive status comes two days after his exit from Yankee Stadium in compliance with an agreement with Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.