Finally, legislation gets tough enough on sports-related assault
Last updated 8/8/2019 at 8:50am
Last week, spurred by the crimes of former U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, two U.S. Senators released a 235-page report summarizing an 18-month investigation into sexual abuse in sports.
But the senators — one a Democrat from Connecticut, the other a Republican from Kansas — haven’t stopped there. Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran have also released a bill that goes beyond the benign admonitions of past legislation and instead details concrete steps to prevent crimes like Nassar’s from happening again and from going undetected for so long.
The bill would require the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee give $20 million a year to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which works to stop the sexual abuse of young athletes. The bill would also grant Congress the power to dissolve the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) board and fire its staff.
Lawmakers would also have the power to terminate national governing bodies like USA Gymnastics, which has been vehemently criticized for its handling of the Nassar case.
Thus far, the International Olympic Committee and the senators’ own staffs have declined to comment on whether such sweeping legislation would violate the Olympic Charter’s historical insistence on autonomy.
The bill has received mixed reaction, being applauded by some sexual assault survivors but criticized by some athletes’ organizations. A group of more than 200 Olympians and athlete advocates known as The Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOPC released a statement saying the bill doesn’t include some of their recommendations and doesn’t do enough to address fear of retaliation between athletes and USOPC. Olympic leaders have suggested the creation of a commission to decide how much USOPC should give to SafeSport and how to make that happen without negative financial impacts on the very impact the bill means to help.
While the bill may not be satisfying to all, it seems to be a good first step in preventing the mass sexual assault that can be perpetrated within professional and Olympic sports. The lack of concrete legislation detailing procedures and responses to accusations of sexual abuse has allowed abusers access to young athletes for far too long.
It’s too early to say whether the bill will result in meaningful change, the creation of a new commission or nothing at all, but sexual assault organizations are hopeful that it will at the very least lead to a focus on legislation with teeth meant to combat sports-related sexual assault.
I say bravo. It’s about time.
Shannen Talbot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.