Editorial: USOC backers have job to do

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Olympic sponsors love to bask in the Games' reflected glory. But the unwillingness of nearly all of them to lift a finger publicly to help fix the current U.S. Olympic Committee mess is an inexplicable abandonment of the athletes and fans they claim to admire and serve.

The USOC has become a national embarrassment, a business school case study of excruciating management and governance dysfunction. There are many outside stakeholders that ought to play a role in building a better USOC. Congress, for one, judging by the comments last week of exasperated U.S. senators, seems ready to wade into the mess.

Not every marketer that helps finance the USOC or its teams will be comfortable with the tough-talking tactics of John Hancock Financial Services' David D'Alessandro. The Hancock CEO, as he did in 1999 during the Salt Lake City Olympic site selection scandal, has waged a public campaign in the media to bring pressure for Olympic reforms.

But sitting by "observing" as USOC tears itself apart-as some marketers seem prepared to do-looks like fiddling while Rome burns. If corporate sponsors of the Olympics genuinely buy into the movement's goals of international friendship and understanding through athletics, their ties to the program should be something more than a simple "sponsorship."

Yes, sponsors have their own businesses to run, and those obligations come before helping to straighten out, say, Major League Baseball's often self-destructive bent. But the Olympics hold a special place in the hearts of the public, both in the U.S. and globally. That's why so many corporations have richly paid to connect their names and products to the Games.

If the USOC is to be fixed, its corporate sponsors need to roll up their sleeves and publicly help with the fixing. If that means using their clout as "the money" behind the Games, so be it. And if that means pushing for a housecleaning of the management and board ranks at USOC, so be it.

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