United Airlines is a key sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The Olympic values: respect, excellence and friendship. In light of the video evidence showing security officials at Chicago’s O’Hare airport literally yanking a passenger off a United flight Sunday because the airline needed seats for its staff, if you were the USOC, aren't your next moves super-obvious?
1. Tell United Airlines that what everyone can see on that video is so not in keeping with the Olympic spirit. 2. Then either get out of your deal with United or commence a conversation in which the airline understands with clarity that it will henceforth deliver major service upgrades. Again, for emphasis: those upgrades will be for everyone involved in the Olympic mission, and in particular the female athletes of Team USA, if recent chatter involving the women’s national hockey team can be of particular guidance.
This video speaks to an institutional culture at the airline gone so very wrong. United chief executive Oscar Munoz's several missteps -- the apologies now seem forced and ring hollow -- only underscore that wayward culture.
In almost every situation, it's inevitably a risk to rush to judgment.
Even so: what benefit does the USOC get from continued affiliation with that culture? And what risk does the USOC run by having its own brand, which it has cautiously and carefully rebuilt after governance meltdowns 15 years ago, associated with a sponsor that not only could but would violate someone's dignity in such a profound manner? For the sin of paying good money and just sitting there, trying to get from Chicago to Louisville?
Of course the USOC needs an airline partner. An airline provides what in Olympic or sponsor speak is called VIK, or value-in-kind. Instead of cash, an airline offers travel -- that is, seats. The USOC needs those seats to get athletes as well as officials and administrators to, well, wherever.
What the USOC has right now is called leverage. It ought to use it, big time. Hello, American or Delta -- let's talk.
In the meantime, United deserves all the "re-accommodating" it can get. Big time.
And, finally, this -- some world-class trolling: