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  • Team Integrity Press Release re; USOPC Board giving Blackmun $2.4M Severance


    (Washington, D.C.)
    The Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC is outraged that the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Board would award any severance to disgraced former CEO, Scott Blackmun, let alone $2.4 million. Scott Blackmun is under FBI investigation, he covered up for a serial child molester, he has been removed from the International Council of Arbitration for Sport, and has been called out for leadership failures by two major reports. More than 150 Olympians and Paralympians are now calling for USOPC Board and staff resignations for breach of their fiduciary duty. They are joined by much of the athlete-survivor and abuse-expert community.

    In December 2018, the Congressional House subcommittee report and the USOC-funded Ropes & Gray investigation called for profound cultural changes to the USOPC; a reorganization that puts athletes’ interests and their well-being first, rather than corporate or employee interests. Blackmun’s $2.4 million severance is more of the same; the Athletes were consulted or even told of the Blackmun severance. The amount represents more money than the USOPC gave to 47 NGBs.

    The media surrounding the Ropes & Gray report focused on Scott Blackmun’s bold lies to the investigators; he asserted that he gathered USOPC resources to help the victims and USA Gymnastics. In fact, he did not lift a finger to help either USA Gymnastics or the Olympic athletes. He did not lift a finger to alert USA Gymnastics member clubs, including Twistars, or Michigan State University, where Nassar continued to abuse dozens of other athletes. 

    But Blackmun’s actions without his lies to Ropes & Gray investigators is worse; Blackmun’s inaction was standard USOPC board policy. Athlete-complaints to the USOPC were to be handled by their NGB; but that’s who was typically inflicting the harm on the athlete. As matter of USOPC board policy, athletes were to be ignored.

    Ropes & Gray described the USOPC and USA Gymnastics (USAG) as creating an “ecosystem” that facilitated Larry Nassar’s criminal acts; the organization and individuals ignored red flags, failed to recognize textbook grooming behaviors, established no boundaries between adults and children, and dismissed clear calls for help from girls and young women. The USOPC “…did not meaningfully involve athletes in decisions or policy-making; nor did it provide an effective avenue for athletes to raise and resolve complaints involving sexual misconduct matters.” 

    The USOPC Board failed to conduct due diligence in numerous ways. First, the Board and leadership accepted Blackmun’s mantra that “Congress hasn’t given the USOPC the authority to interfere with NGBs; these are private businesses.” This was never true, just the opposite; the Sports Act and USOPC by-laws require that the corporation protect athletes’ right to compete. 

     Second, the USOPC’s policies required the Olympic movement to knowingly ignore the interests of America’s athletes, including their health, their well-being, and their sexual safety. Despite actual knowledge of real athlete-vulnerability of sexual abuse and ongoing retaliation, no current member of the USOPC board or senior leadership called for a re-consideration of their dangerous USOPC policies to not help athletes in peril prior to Congressional and media involvement. As the Ropes & Gray report repeatedly stated:
    Blackmun and the USOPC board did not adopt standard child‐protective measures.
    Blackmun and the USOPC board decreased the voice of athletes in the governance process.
    Blackmun and the USOPC board did not create meaningful avenues for athletes to alert the Olympic movement of problems.

    Numerous athletes discussed their sexual abuse with Blackmun and USOPC board members directly, who refused to help them.

    Even after the 2010 and 2012 USOPC working groups on sexual abuse, Blackmun and the USOC board never created an process to allow the Olympic movement to become aware of the type and number of sexual abuse allegations at NGBs.

    The USOPC Board knew that their NGBs had inadequate policies, including overly formalized complaint processes, lack of sufficient training for employees handling sexual abuse matters, and inadequate attention to the risk of retaliation against athletes and others for raising complaints. Yet they did not require adoption of model policies and procedures.

    Even in 2012, when the Board passed a requirement that NGBs prohibit romantic and sexual relationships between coaches and athletes, regardless of age or consent when there was a power differential, the USOPC Board did no follow-up to assure their resolution was followed, and it was not.

    The current USOPC Board and senior staff continue to function without regard to the Ropes & Gray Report or to Congressional House Subcommittee Report. Worse, the USOC is still functioning without regard to the interests of its athletes. The athletes, elected by their peers, were not consulted about any severance package, or about January USOPC board appointments as they were being vetted. 

    Scott Blackmun presided over a time of financial and corporate growth, thanks mostly to an upward value of the Olympic brand and heavy marketing by NBC. Even though Olympians were no longer “Amateur” after 1991, athletes did not share in this financial growth. Today, over 80% of our Olympians live below the poverty-line. Blackmun accomplished this feat by intentional athlete disempowerment, as we outlined in February 2018. Sexual abuse was merely one of many symptoms of the underlying problem; athletes’ lack of power. 
    Athlete Disempowerment Since November, 2018:

    Rich Bender and Steve Mesler were appointed to four-year terms on to the USOPC Board without input from the athletes or the AAC.

    The USOPC formed a committee to gift some of the most lucrative marks, the Olympic rings, to colleges and universities, without athlete input, in violation of the Sports Act.
    Athletes are still not permitted to use the marks for their own fundraising.

    The USOPC has taken the position that it does not need to provide athletes with the due process protections guaranteed by the Sports Act and USOC by-laws. Athletes at Olympic Training Centers (“OTC”) face weaponized, vague complaints, labeled as somehow related to “SafeSport”. The complaints are along the lines of an anonymous “I don’t feel safe around this athlete.” The NGB then verbally conveys this allegation to the USOPC. Rather than provide the athlete with Sports Act protections, it summarily bans the athlete from using the OTC and from receiving funding. (See Attached Team Integrity “USOC New Due Process Challenges”)
    Athlete health insurance discontinued when athletes need it most; when they become sick, injured or become pregnant, and their rankings drop. Otherwise, the USOPC is insuring some of the youngest, healthiest people in the insurance pool.

    The USOPC required USA Women’s National Team in Soccer to sue their NGB when they face sex discrimination. Instead of the USOPC protecting the athlete, the USOPC funds the NGBs, including their legal costs against athletes.

    Team Integrity had direct conversations and written communications about Sarah Hirshland about the problem with conflicts of interest when the USOPC hires AAC members. Yet Hirshland then went on to hire an AAC member, who just happened to sit on her CEO hiring committee just months prior.

    USA Track and Field is currently failing to adhere to its own selection procedures for the Pan American Games. Moreover, USATF did not adhere to the requirements of a AAA arbitration, requiring that any affected athlete be part of the arbitration. The USOPC has not stepped in to help athletes.

    USA Table Tennis adopted selection procedures that included the results of competitions that had already occurred. Additionally, the selection procedures gave undue discretion to the coach, rather than objective criteria, making them more vulnerable to abuse. The USOPC has not stepped in to help athletes.

    Because of the most recent developments, the Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC is insisting that the USOPC Board and its Senior Leadership must resign; the USOPC has now proven it cannot reform itself, and has done that over and over. Sarah Hirshland still has no response to retaliation against athletes that report abuse. (Aspen Institute and Around the Rings Interviews, 2019) No Board member called upon Congress to rectify any barrier that the Sports Act may have imposed. The USOPC Board continues to pay more attention to lavish employee compensation and perks than to athlete well-being.

    Ed Williams, J.D., Olympian, one of the architects of the Sports Act in 1978, and lawyer frequently representing both athletes and NGBs, said, “No amount of spin from the USOPC can possibly justify the outrageous payment of $2.4 million, authorized by the USOPC Board, to one of Nassar’s chief enablers. Last year, the USOPC Board announced that Blackmun was resigning for health reasons. But we know, and everyone knows, that the Board knew he was involved in covering up for Nassar for months. While the USOP will not admit it publicly, Blackmun was in effect fired “for cause” by the Board, but nonetheless given a $2.4 million going away present to keep quiet.”

    Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D., Olympian and CEO of Champion Women said, “When the USOPC handed Scott Blackmun $2.4 million dollars prior to the completion of the many Nassar investigations, it failed to exercise its fiduciary duty over the Olympic and Paralympic movement. The investigations have all shown Blackmun lied; that he was complicit in creating the conditions for the athletes to be abused, and complicit in protecting his own position and the organization, rather than the athletes he was responsible for protecting. If this severance does not convince Congress and the public that the USOPC board and senior staff is not fit to govern our national treasure, our Olympic movement, I don’t know what will. Given what was known at the time, and certainly what is known now, the Board and its senior leadership must resign.”

    Eli Bremer, Olympian, Entrepreneur and Consultant said, “The USOPC is a nonprofit and Blackmun’s severance is offensive. Besides the embarrassing sum, the USOPC Board is not supposed to reward people who hurt athletes. It will not sit well with the athletes, the public at large or Congress. Suzanne Lyons and Sarah Hirshland keep telling us, ‘Trust me; we are turning the organization around,’ but we have not seen it. We call on more legislators to sign onto the bill sponsored by Senator Gardner and Congresswoman DeGette to re-write the Sports Act.”

    Members of Team Integrity include:

    Executive Committee:
    Ed Williams, J.D., Oly
    Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D., Oly
    Robert Allard, J.D.
    Robert Andrews, MA, LMFT
    Jessica Armstrong, J.D.
    Eli Bremer, Oly
    Chuck Foster, Former USOC Officer
    Herman R. Frazier, Oly, Former USOC Officer
    Kathy Johnson Clarke, Oly
    Lucila Hemmingsen, J.D.
    Micki King, Oly
    Jon Little, J.D.
    Donna Lopiano, Ph.D.
    Charles Milam, former USOC Board Member
    Dia Rianda
    Eva Rodansky
    Pat Rodowsky
    Steven Sexton, Ph.D.
    Jennifer Sey
    Jennifer Spiegel, J.D.

    Olympians, Coaches and Elite Athletes:
    Mary Harvey, Oly
    Greg Louganis, Oly
    Scott Johnson, Oly
    Julianne McNamara, Oly
    Ariana Kukors Smith, Oly
    Martina Navratilova, Oly
    Nancy Lieberman, Oly
    Horace Holden, Oly
    Pam Shriver, Oly
    Tai Babilonia, Oly
    Tracee Talavera, Oly
    Bill Stapleton, Oly
    Dave Berkoff, Oly
    Caroline Lind, Oly
    Cynthia Potter, Oly
    Taraje Williams-Murray, Oly
    Don Barcome, Jr., Oly
    Larry Hough, Oly, former AAC and USOC Officer
    Mitzi Kramer Tighe, Oly
    Marci Frederick, Oly
    Scott Donie, Oly
    Cristina Teuscher Fabbri, Oly
    Ian Whatley, Oly
    Keith Sanderson, Oly
    Seth Kelsey, Oly
    Bonny Warner Simi, Oly
    Sebastian DeFrancesco, Oly
    Joe Jacobi, Oly
    Sean O’Neill, Oly
    Eric Barnes, Oly
    Barb Weinstein McGrath, Oly
    Debby McCormick, Oly
    Nick Peterson, Oly
    Jennifer Hooker Brinegaar, Oly
    Allen James, Oly
    Brenda Borgh Bartlett, Oly
    Janis Hape Dowd, Oly
    Deb Armstrong, Oly
    Anthony Zahn, Oly
    Andrew Hermann, Oly
    Carrie Sheinberg, Oly
    Sue Heon-Preston, Oly
    Allison Wagner, Oly
    Linda Jezek Wittwer, Oly
    Inga Thompson, Oly
    Tiffany Cohen, Oly
    Joan Hansen, Oly
    Tracy Evans-Land, Oly
    Cathy (Catherine) Hearn, Oly
    Betsy Mitchell, Oly
    Doug Lewis, Oly
    Carrie Steinseifer Bates, Oly
    Steve Gregg, Oly
    Jack Elder, Oly
    Deena Deardurff Schmidt, Oly
    Arlene Limas, Oly
    Stacey Liapis-Fuchsgruber, Oly
    Troy Dumias, Oly
    Justin Dumias, Oly
    Christopher R. (Tiff) Wood, Oly
    Tim Caldwell, Oly
    John Morton, Oly
    Loren Drum, Oly
    Laurel (Brassey) Iverson, Oly, former AAC member
    Jay Bowerman, Oly
    Richard Mize, Oly
    Glen Eberle, Oly
    Dennis Donahue, Oly
    Megan Neyer, Ph.D., Oly
    Erik Henriksen, Oly
    Dennis Donahue, Oly
    Judy Blumberg, Oly
    Tom Lough, Ph.D., Oly
    Caroline Pingatore Holmes, Oly
    David C. Johnson, M.D., Oly
    Dana Schoenfield Reyes, Oly
    Pat Winslow Connolly, Oly
    Arlene Limas, Oly
    Jeff Olson, Oly
    Khadevis Robinson, Oly
    Jim Galanes, Oly
    Keith Frostad, Oly
    Victoria King, M.D., Oly
    Lynette Love, Oly
    Kay Poe Sheffield, Oly
    Julia Chase-Brand, Oly
    Kendis Moore Drake, Oly
    Pete Karns, Oly
    Caroline Lalive, Oly
    Jeffrey Swider-Peltz, Oly
    Cathy Jean Marino, Oly
    Alison Owen Bradley, Oly
    Horace Holden, Oly
    Sue Baker, Oly
    Craig Ward, Oly
    Bill Koch, Oly
    Debbie Meyer, Oly
    Jeff Farrell, Oly
    Jim Henry, Oly
    Joe Lamb, Oly
    Levi Kirkpatrick, Oly
    George Mount, Oly
    Steve Cohen, Oly
    Jan Margo Henne, Oly
    Kevin Brochman, Oly
    Randy Barnes, Oly
    Justin Spring, Oly
    Cale Simmons, Oly
    Chelle Stack Marcella, Oly
    Kellie Wells Brinkley, Oly
    Lauren Gibbs, Oly
    Nathan Schrimsher, Oly
    Keith Brantly, Oly
    Carol Newnan Cronin, Oly
    Russell Hodge, Oly
    Jimmy Pino, Oly
    Ralph Wakley, Oly
    Craig Lincoln, Oly
    Michael Roth, Oly
    Matthew Laue, Oly
    John Caldwell, Oly and Oly Coach
    Janet Ely, Oly and Coach
    Bob Balk, Paralympian
    Jon Lujan, Paralympian
    Tahl Leibovitz, Paralympian
    Ted Fey, Ph.D., Paralympian and IPC Member
    Marty Hall, Oly Coach
    Don Gambril, Oly Coach
    Frank Thomas, Oly Coach
    Jan Olesinski, Oly and Coach
    Tracy Sundlun, Oly Team Manager
    Monica Rowland, Elite Athlete and AAC Member
    Art Stegen, Nat’l Team Coach
    Doe Yamashiro, DO, Nat’l Team
    Vanessa Atler, Nat’l Team
    Peggy Haslach, Nat’l Team
    Estee Pryor, Nat’l Team
    Chris Riegel, Nat’l Team
    Christine Loock, M.D., Nat’l Team
    Patty Spees Maysent, Nat’l Team
    John Walker, Nat’l Team Coach
    Rebecca Carlson, Elite Coach
    Pam Boteler, Elite Athlete
    Dawn Riley, Elite Athlete
    Carmen Small, Elite Athlete
    Susie Kincade, Elite Athlete
    Perry Toles, J.D., Elite Athlete
    Nate Di Palma, Elite Athlete
    Julie Whitman DeLucia
    Chris DeSantis, Coach

    Athletes Abused in Olympic Movement:
    Rachael Denhollander, J.D.
    Morgan McCall
    Sarah Klein, J.D.
    Danielle Moore, Psy.D.
    Amanda Thomashow
    Chrissy Weathersby Ball
    Larissa Boyce
    Sara Teristi
    Diana Nyad
    Jessica Howard
    Courtney Kiehl
    Bridie Farrell
    Jancy Thompson
    Debra Denithorne Grodensky
    Dani Bostick
    Mandy Maloon
    Melissa Merson
    Olivia Venuto
    Danielle Moore, Psy.D.
    Louise Harder
    Grace French
    Sarah Power Barnard
    Kay Rogness
    Julie Bremner Romias
    Lisa Johnson
    Sarah Ehekircher
    Michele Kurtzman Greenfield

    Child Protection Organizations:
    The Army of Survivors
    Champion Women
    Equality League
    Set The Expectation
    Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, LLC
    Child Protection Leaders:
    The Honorable Rosemarie Aquilina
    Marci Hamilton, J.D.
    Brenda Tracy
    Michelle Simpson Tuegel, J.D.
    Maddie Salamone, J.D.
    S. Daniel Carter, J.D.

    Sport Leaders:
    Andrew Zimbalist, Ph.D., Sport Economist
    Daniel Marburger, Ph.D., Sport Economist
    Jacqueline A. Brummer, J.D.
    Mark Conrad, J.D. Professor
    Rene Henry
    Myron Finkelstein, Graduate Professor, Global Sports Business
    Dan Rascher, Ph.D., CVA, Sport Management Professor
    Don Porter, former International Softball Federation
    Becky Clark, Ph.D., CMPC,
    Jeff Dimond, Executive in Olympic Movement
    Becca Gillespy Peter
    Hia Sebastian
    Steve Delsohn

    As a service to our readers, Around the Rings will provide verbatim texts of selected press releases issued by Olympic-related organizations, federations, businesses and sponsors.

    These press releases appear as sent to Around the Rings and are not edited for spelling, grammar or punctuation. 

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