by Irvin Muchnick
Yesterday the San Francisco news site Beyond Chron published my article about the far-reaching implications of a new lawsuit against the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Taekwondo claiming sexual abuse and human trafficking.
For technical reasons explained in the piece, the taekwondo case has been structured as a class action. You better believe that arming the national sport bodies against this legal vehicle must be fraying nerves at the offices of their mouthpieces at the Bryan Cave law firm.
For if victims of youth-serving organizations can combine their legal firepower, rather than lob piecemeal smoke bombs at the most shifty corporate defense tactics money can buy, then the party will be over for the thugs in the executive suites who enable and cover up abuse, while pulling down obscene salaries in return for arranging sponsorships and television deals.
Take, as an example, the focus of much of Concussion Inc.’s coverage of the last six years: USA Swimming. Plenty of evidence could emerge concerning swimming’s facilitation of taekwondo-like human trafficking, through the central organization’s arrangements and funding of the transport of abusive coaches and their swimmers across state and even national boundaries.
But even shy of such evidence, plenty of other ammunition exists to set USA Swimming back on its heels for the fraudulent exploitation of the dues of hundreds of thousands of members to hype the 2010 creation of its “safe sport” program.
Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the USOC who retired in disgrace following the USA Gymnastics scandal, used to tout swimming’s program as the industry model. But after swimming’s founding “athlete protection officer,” then “safe sport director,” Susan Woessner resigned earlier this year, it became easier than ever to see that she had been nothing more than an add-on bureaucrat who got hired, at a hefty salary, for the purpose of perpetuating the same cover-up practices that had spurred the very public relations ploy of her appointment.
I’m not just talking about the revelation of Woessner’s prior relationship with bad-guy coach Sean Hutchison, whose 2010-11 investigation for improper consort with one of his swimmers at the Fullerton professional training center was close to the very first task under the portfolio of the organization’s founding safe sport director. I also refer to the clear admission, in Woessner’s deposition in a lawsuit by an abuse victim, that she simply pushed paper and recorded decisions on whether and how to open abuse investigations; those decisions were and remained the exclusive province of the late executive director, Chuck Wielgus. See the article about this posted here on February 25, at https://concussioninc.net/?p=12602.
The theory of numerous “absent class members” who were “similarly situated” to named plaintiffs, and thus should have their claims folded into civil lawsuits against USA Swimming and other sport groups that fostered youth coach sexual abuse, is a potentially fruitful avenue of reform. Since complex litigation is bruising, lengthy, and costly, it is not the preferred method — Congressional action is that. But if Congress shows no will to follow up the Safe Sport Act with additional measures adding toothful oversight and accountability, then more lawsuits — and more creative ones — are inevitable.