Skip to content

Q&A: Billy Baldwin’s plan to “Keep Olympic Wrestling”

May 16, 2013, 4:52 PM EDT

billy-baldwin

While many were simply mourning the IOC’s recommendation to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics schedule, Billy Baldwin was busy doing something about it. And trust us, he went full Baldwin. Billy named himself Hollywood Point Man for the “Keep Olympic Wrestling” effort and has has asked Olympic champs, Hollywood friends, and strangers on the street to pitch in by taking part in PSAs, interviews, and events, raising awareness, and talking about the value that wrestling instilled in their lives. We chatted with Billy about the future of the sport and somehow ended up in a bear hug at Wednesday’s “Rumble on the Rails.”

How’s your role as the Hollywood Point Person for Keep Olympic Wrestling been?

I’ve never done this, so I’m acting as a freaking publicist behind the scenes. I’ve had a couple of my actor friends show up for this, and it’s really so special that they would, and so important to the community. I want to make sure they talk to you guys and get the word out, so I’ve been talking to a lot of people.

Who all have you gotten in touch with about the movement?

Mark Ruffalo’s here, Mike Golic’s here, Ronnie Lott’s here. I’ve talked to Steve Buschemi and Boardwalk Empire director Timmy Van Patten. We have a good crowd coming out to LA, too. We have Mario Lopez and Matthew Modine and Tom Arnold and Randy Couture. I’m working on Jon “Bones” Jones.

Did they contacted you or vice versa?

I’ve been reaching out to a lot of people. Especially people who have a connection with the sport. Ruffalo just filmed Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher about Olympic wrestler David Schultz, and they had a lot of wrestlers on the set, so they’re having a little reunion of sorts. A lot of legends, like Gable and Stan Dziedzic and Gene Mills were his technical advisors on the set, and it was so funny to watch Ruffalo walk in here. Most people would just shake hands and say hello to each other, but wrestlers just start bear hugging and clinching [which is precisely what Billy did to SI's Nick Zaccardi and me right about here]. And to see Ruffalo do that the way we would do that, I was like, “He’s method. That’s method”

Have you been encouraged by the turnout for “Rumble on the Rails”?

It’s been a great event. I was thrilled to have the Iranian crowd here. I wish [the American team] had performed a bit better on the mat. We’ve got a big venue to fill Sunday in Los Angeles. It holds about 14,000 and we’ve already sold about 5,000, so we’ll be in good shape. But I think we’re going to be outnumbered by Iranian-Americans by about ten to one.

Why did you take such an active role in “Keep Olympic Wrestling”?

It’s just a very important cause to me. The sport has always helped to shape young boys into men by instilling the values and discipline and work ethic and mental toughness. And those values transcend the sport. When I stopped wrestling, they became tools for life. They served me well as a husband and a father and in the pursuit of my career. It can serve journalism, investment banking, show business. It’s the gift that’s served me through my thirties and forties, and into my fifties.

And there’s obviously something at stake for the world community.

Yes. If we lose wrestling it’s going to be bad for America, it’s going to be bad for high school and college wrestling in America. But we’re blessed. We have many other Olympic sports and many, many, many, events that we can compete in if you’re a parent looking for something for your kids to do. But in Iran, it’s their national sport. They don’t compete in twenty different sports. Some nations only compete in two or three. This is their NFL. These guys are their Babe Ruth, their New York Yankees, their national pastime. You can tell by how good they were today. And to take this away from some kid in a village outside of Tehran or on a farm in Azerbaijan is just an unenlightened decision.

So do you think events like “Rumble on the Rails” are ultimately the way back?

I think so. The IOC wants to bring back the 18 to 34 year old demographic, so they’re bringing in the halfpipe and the X-Games and they’re saying to wrestling, “We’re warning you. Find a way to make it better for television, cooler, sexier, more popular, and more profitable. And if you don’t, you’re out.”

What about the other sports that want their chance to compete in the Olympics?

They should have their opportunity, but not at the expense of wrestling. We have athletes on every continent, we had competitors from eighty countries in London, we had medalists from 29 countries, and to lose it would not just be unfair, it would be socially unjust.

How could wrestling have avoided ending up here?

I don’t want to bash the IOC, especially since our fate still lies in their hands, but I really truly don’t believe they should have recommended removing wrestling. I think they should have gone in and cleaned house in FILA. The governing body had some failed leadership. They just got lazy and complacent, with a lot of ego and hubris and parlor politics, and look where we are now because of their failed leadership. Now we’re in the process of addressing that issue, and we’re excited about what’s to come.

Latest Posts
  1. Michael Phelps beaten by Ryan Lochte in first final of comeback

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps AP

    Phelps was swimming competitively for the first time since the London Olympics.

  2. Lolo Jones sheds weight, returns to track at Drake Relays

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:57 PM EDT

    Lolo Jones AP

    Jones explains difficulty of returning to track workouts.

  3. Michael Phelps wins his first preliminary race since London Olympics

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps AP

    Phelps is swimming competitively for the first time since the London Olympics.

  4. Erin Hamlin, bronze medal hanging with the stars since Sochi Olympics

    Apr 24, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Erin Hamlin Getty Images

    Olympic bronze medalist explains what President Obama told her about luge.

  5. Elizabeth Price retires from U.S. National Gymnastics Team

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:42 PM EDT

    Elizabeth Price AP

    2012 Olympic alternate announces college plans.

  6. Meb Keflezighi throws first pitch at Red Sox game (photos, video)

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:11 AM EDT

    Meb Keflezighi

    Boston Marathon winner met Derek Jeter, David Ortiz.

  7. Ryan Lochte inspired by Michael Phelps’ return (video)

    Apr 23, 2014, 8:34 PM EDT

    Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Lochte said he almost didn’t come back to swimming after knee injury.

  8. Michael Phelps ready to start ‘journey’ in comeback meet

    Apr 23, 2014, 6:33 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Phelps says he gained 30 pounds in retirement but has shed most of it in training.

  9. Michael Phelps no longer sponsored by Speedo

    Apr 23, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Phelps’ contract with Speedo ran out at the end of 2013 after a 12-year run.

  10. Another Michael set to make splash at Mesa Grand Prix

    Apr 23, 2014, 2:18 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps, Michael Andrew Courtesy Tina Andrew

    Michael Andrew, 15, turned pro last year and has been drawing comparisons to Michael Phelps.

  11. Michael Phelps’ comeback at Mesa Grand Prix competition, broadcast schedules

    Apr 23, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps AP

    When to watch Michael Phelps’ return to competition.

  12. Meb Keflezighi congratulated by President Obama

    Apr 22, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Meb Keflezighi AP

    How Keflezighi spent the morning after his upset victory.

  13. Ryan Hall, other U.S. runners wouldn’t help East Africans catch Meb Keflezighi

    Apr 22, 2014, 1:57 PM EDT

    Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi AP

    Americans’ tactic played small role in Keflezighi’s victory.

  14. Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski added to NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage

    Apr 22, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT

    Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski Getty Images

    Sochi figure skating analysts will be fashion experts at Churchill Downs.

  15. Apolo Ohno plans to do Ironman World Championships

    Apr 22, 2014, 10:11 AM EDT

    Apolo Anton Ohno AP

    Ohno follows NFL wide receiver, celebrity chef in ambitious attempt.

  16. Lance Armstrong’s longtime team manager banned 10 years

    Apr 22, 2014, 8:21 AM EDT

    Johan Bruyneel AP

    Johan Bruyneel guided Lance Armstrong’s teams for all seven stripped Tour de France wins.

  17. Emotions flow for runners, spectators at Boston Marathon

    Apr 21, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Boston Strong AP

    “I needed it for healing,” one survivor said.

  18. Meb Keflezighi stuns to win Boston Marathon (video)

    Apr 21, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Meb Keflezighi AP

    First U.S. man to win Boston Marathon since 1983.

  19. 2014 Boston Marathon highlights: American Meb Keflezighi, Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo win (VIDEO)

    Apr 21, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    2014 B.A.A. Boston Marathon Getty Images

    Meb Keflezighi made history on an emotional day at the 2014 Boston Marathon by becoming the first American man to win the race since 1983. Watch highlights of the 38-year-old Keflezighi’s victory here, courtesy of Universal Sports: Keflezighi reacts to his historic win and the emotion of winning one year after the Boston Marathon bombing,…

  20. Rita Jeptoo repeats as Boston Marathon winner in course record

    Apr 21, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT

    Rita Jeptoo Getty Images

    Shalane Flanagan led early but was dropped around 21 miles.

Featured video

Inside Michael Phelps' comeback