by Irvin Muchnick
The United States Olympic Committee’s new sex police agency, the U.S. Center for SafeSport, is off to a rocky start. The agency’s lack of meaningful independence from USA Swimming and the other USOC national sport governing bodies it is largely charged with overseeing, reviewing, and investigating is a serious enough base problem. But SafeSport is also woefully under-resourced. As Diana Moskovitz wrote last month at Deadspin:
“The caseload number … is 19 cases per investigator, more than half again as high as the general recommendation for caseworkers in state-provided children’s services. (That number is itself arguably far too high.) The budget for education, intended to prevent future abuse, is just $1.5 million, and the overall budget when the SafeSport CEO spoke to Congress was a paltry $4.6 million. (For comparison, anti-doping agency USADA had total expenses in 2016 of close to $20 million.) Child abuse is a problem that can be significantly mitigated with money, and yet it seems that nobody—not even Congress—can be bothered to do just that.”
(See “SafeSport, The USOC’s Attempt To Stop Child Abuse, Is Set Up To Fail — Just Like It Was Supposed To,” https://deadspin.com/safesport-the-usocs-attempt-to-stop-child-abuse-is-se-1826279217.)
But the paucity of funding for the center’s purported mission hasn’t stopped the Denver agency — a convenient hour and a quarter drive from USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs — from jumping in with both feet when it comes to the unstated core mission: marketing.
SafeSport contracts with a Washington, D.C., area lobbying firm and communications and “brand” consultant called Hill Impact. All queries to the center’s website get put through to Hill Impact, whose owner Dan Hill is fond of touting his pro bono work on abuse issues. Asked to clarify and disclose, Hill says, well, Hill Impact doesn’t work for SafeSport for free, exactly. But “whatever SafeSport pays us doesn’t cover our costs,” Hill asserts, without evidence.
That SafeSport is paying anyone for anything other than the dissemination of basic information is troubling enough under the circumstances. That Hill turns out to be a troll on Twitter, who spins and comments on unfavorable observations about the center — all the while insisting that he’d never, ever, do anything to mitigate an abuse complainant’s voice or disincentivize reporting — is additionally troubling.
That Hill is an out-and-out con man takes matters from worse to worst. Two weeks ago he fabricated the content of my only telephone conversation with him, and bragged that his bizarre account would be corroborated by his employees Kate Brannen and Kira Wilson — who, he said, were somehow listening in “on speaker phone,” even though the record shows that he had set up his call to me on a remote cell phone connection on a Friday night.
Solicited for such corroboration, Brannen and Wilson fell conspicuously silent.
So, how much is the U.S. Center for SafeSport paying for the services of this lying huckster? To try to find out, I sent a certified query letter last week to Shellie Pfohl, the president and CEO of the center. (If you navigate the whole website and squint hard enough on one page of it, you can find the street address of 1385 S. Colorado Blvd., Ste. A-706, Denver, CO 80222.)
Pfohl hasn’t responded.
Over to you, Congress.
Published July 29th, 2018
Published August 5th, 2018
Published August 6th, 2018
Published August 8th, 2018