Skip to content

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

May 16, 2013, 4:52 PM EST

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. Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir at Super Bowl Media Day (video)

    Jan 30, 2015, 4:53 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    NBC’s figure skating analysts will be part of Super Bowl XLIX pregame coverage starting at noon ET on Sunday.

  2. Galen Rupp talks training with Mo Farah, marathons, weird drug test story

    Jan 30, 2015, 4:12 PM EST

    Galen Rupp Getty Images

    Rupp will compete in the Armory Track Invitational on NBCSN on Saturday.

  3. Russian Olympic, World champions get doping bans

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Tatyana Chernova beat Jessica Ennis at the 2011 World Championships.

  4. Rita Jeptoo gets two-year doping ban

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:32 AM EST

    AP AP

    The ban would rule Jeptoo out of the Rio Olympics.

  5. World Alpine Skiing Championships broadcast schedule

    Jan 29, 2015, 3:37 PM EST

    Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin Getty Images

    How to watch Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and more go for gold in Colorado.

  6. Boston Marathon finish line shoveled by Ironman triathlete

    Jan 28, 2015, 3:23 PM EST

    Boston Marathon finish line shoveled

    “I only did it to send a message,” shoveler said.

  7. K.C. Boutiette returns to World Cup speed skating for first time since 2006

    Jan 28, 2015, 2:02 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    An Olympic legend helped convince him to come back, possibly for the 2018 Olympics.

  8. Tori Bowie ‘going after medals’ after breakthrough season

    Jan 27, 2015, 4:14 PM EST

    Tori Bowie Getty Images

    Bowie may try to make the World Championships team in three individual events.

  9. Yohan Blake details ‘dreams’ for 2015

    Jan 27, 2015, 2:37 PM EST

    Yohan Blake Getty Images

    Once Usain Bolt’s top rival, the Jamaican is returning from a second major injury in as many years.

  10. Lance Armstrong on forgiveness: ‘We’re getting close to that time’

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:41 PM EST

    AP AP

    Armstrong touched on many topics in a BBC interview.

  11. Martina Hingis eyes Rio Olympics

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:58 AM EST

    Martina Hingis Getty Images

    Could Hingis return to Olympic tennis, 20 years after her only Olympic appearance?

  12. South Korean Olympic swim champ Park Tae-hwan fails drug test

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:41 AM EST

    Park Tae-hwan Getty Images

    Park’s management agency cited “an illegal injection administered by a local doctor.”

  13. Jason Brown wins first U.S. figure skating title

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:48 PM EST

    AP AP

    Brown is the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 2004.

  14. Sage Kotsenburg, Jamie Anderson beaten in Winter X Games slopestyle

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:35 PM EST

    Sage Kotsenburg Getty Images

    Instead, past Winter X Games champions prevailed in Aspen.

  15. WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships men’s free skate — 4 p.m. ET

    Jan 25, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    Jason Brown Getty Images

    Jason Brown tries to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 2004.

  16. WATCH LIVE: ‘Lindsey Vonn: The Climb’ documentary — 3 p.m. ET

    Jan 25, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Lindsey Vonn

    An inside look at the skier’s comeback from two major knee surgeries.

  17. Lindsey Vonn wins final race before World Championships (video)

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:36 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn captured victory No. 64 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

  18. Ashley Wagner shatters records for third U.S. figure skating title

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:50 PM EST

    Ashley Wagner Getty Images

    Wagner becomes the oldest women’s champion since Michelle Kwan.