by Irvin Muchnick
Part of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s holiday news dump, at the end of a year in which the massive USA Gymnastics/Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal started bringing a larger story home to a larger public, was last week’s announcement that Shellie Pfohl, founding chief of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, was stepping down with a year left on her contract.
It was apparent from the start that Pfohl was in way over her head. As I remarked to others at the time, and now share with readers, one tipoff was her miserable canned interview in April on the set of Denver’s 9News. The video is viewable at https://www.9news.com/video/features/safe-sport-focuses-on-athlete-well-being/73-8101344.
At the precise moment when Congressional hearings put a spotlight on widespread and universal abuse in amateur sports and the need for a new sheriff in town, Pfohl went on television sporting a ridiculous SafeSport-branded pullover, and proceeded to provide exactly what was not needed: reinforcement that she had neither logistical nor strategic independence from the USOC apparatchiks who had just appointed her.
Projecting that ever-authoritative deer-in-the-headlights on-camera look, she also appeared on the verge of melting into putty under the 9News co-anchors’ softball questions. In Shellie Pfohl’s SafeSport Center, the mission of rooting out molester kid coaches got articulated in the chirpy sing-song of a bureaucrat who downgraded unpleasantness from systematic to episodic, and who identified the entire mission as one of bland messaging and marketing.
In August, I sent a certified letter to Pfohl asking her how much her center was paying its PR con man, Virginia-based Dan Hill, who trolled complainant Sarah Ehekircher and fabricated the content of my single telephone conversation with him. Naturally, Pfohl never responded.