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. Renaud Lavillenie, Valerie Adams win IAAF Athlete of the Year awards

    Nov 21, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Renaud Lavillenie Getty Images

    This year’s winners came from unprecedented nations and events.

  2. Ashley Wagner trails, Denis Ten leads at Trophee Bompard

    Nov 21, 2014, 2:24 PM EST

    Ashley Wagner AP

    Wagner could match a Michelle Kwan feat at the French event.

  3. Angelina Jolie showed Louis Zamperini scenes of ‘Unbroken’ on hospital bed

    Nov 21, 2014, 8:59 AM EST

    Angelina Jolie, Louis Zamperini AP

    “Unbroken” film about Olympian and World War II hero comes out on Christmas.

  4. Table tennis player shoves over referee after loss (video)

    Nov 20, 2014, 5:34 PM EST

    Table Tennis

    Young Dmitry Melnichenko lost the match, then lost his cool.

  5. Joss Christensen becomes ‘mountain man’ since Sochi Olympics

    Nov 20, 2014, 4:57 PM EST

    Joss Christensen Getty Images

    Olympic ski slopestyle champion uses a chainsaw every day.

  6. Louie Vito hopes to stand out after missing Olympics

    Nov 20, 2014, 3:03 PM EST

    Louie Vito Getty Images

    Vito thought he had what it took to make the Olympic team, but judges didn’t see it the same way.

  7. Claressa Shields wins first World Championships bout in 11 seconds (video)

    Nov 19, 2014, 11:30 PM EST

    Claressa Shields Getty Images

    Olympic champion could face the only woman who beat her in the quarterfinals.

  8. Mikaela Shiffrin finishes 15th, 16th in super-Gs in Colorado

    Nov 19, 2014, 8:25 PM EST

    Mikaela Shiffrin Getty Images

    “I don’t really want to race unless I have a shot at winning.”

  9. Vanessa-Mae faces retroactive Olympic ban

    Nov 19, 2014, 1:40 PM EST

    Vanessa Mae Getty Images

    Her name could be “erased from the list of participants,” IOC president said.

  10. Rio Olympics to have some morning track and field finals

    Nov 19, 2014, 11:29 AM EST

    Shalane Flanagan Getty Images

    Eight stadium events will have morning finals, a first for Olympic track and field since 1988.

  11. IOC proposes adding Olympic events, bid reforms

    Nov 18, 2014, 4:11 PM EST

    Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE

    The IOC will vote on 40 proposed changes to the Olympics in December.

  12. Ryan Lochte: I have no doubt Michael Phelps will come back

    Nov 18, 2014, 4:01 PM EST

    Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Also, Natalie Coughlin said she reached out to Phelps.

  13. Ryan Lochte unsure who is world’s best swimmer

    Nov 18, 2014, 3:52 PM EST

    Ryan Lochte, Kosuke Hagino, Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Four years ago, Michael Phelps’ coach said Lochte was the world’s best swimmer.

  14. Doha gets 2019 World Track and Field Championships over Eugene, Barcelona

    Nov 18, 2014, 9:23 AM EST

    Lamine Diack

    U.S. has never hosted the World Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

  15. Jennifer Kessy, Emily Day form new beach volleyball partnership

    Nov 17, 2014, 4:35 PM EST

    Jennifer Kessy Getty Images

    Olympic silver medalist’s partner in London was April Ross, who is now with Kerri Walsh Jennings.

  16. Bode Miller out until January due to back surgery

    Nov 17, 2014, 1:42 PM EST

    Bode Miller Getty Images

    Miller hopes to return one week before the one storied race he has never won.

  17. Peter Forsberg and the Olympics

    Nov 17, 2014, 1:16 PM EST

    Peter Forsberg Getty Images

    Swede being inducted into Hall of Fame authored one of the iconic Olympic moments in 1994.

  18. Holley Mangold takes 13th at World Weightlifting Championships

    Nov 16, 2014, 8:57 AM EST

    Holley Mangold Getty Images

    Sister of New York Jets center was competing in her first World Championships.