by Irvin Muchnick
Readers of this site know that I consider the U.S. Center for SafeSport – the de facto nascent Internal Affairs Bureau for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and its affiliated national sport governing bodies – a dismal joke on survivors of youth sports coach abuse; on fans of the Olympic movement; and on intuitive concepts of public health and accountability.
The center has built on the “brand name” and practices of USA Swimming’s downright fraudulent SafeSport department and investigative whitewashes. And while the center has made the occasional splash over busting a bad actor, the targets are always both carefully curated and, instead of exhibiting the assertion of independent administrative values for youth-serving organizations, couched in the backup of the criminal justice system’s “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.
The center has an untenable backlog of cases and is untenably underfunded. Not that that stopped the organization from spending $96,215 in 2019 on lobbying Congress. Or $218,923 on its top in-house lawyer at the time, Michael Henry, a con man who isn’t even licensed to practice law – and who is now the con man “judicial integrity officer” for the federal courts. Or $654,446 to Denver’s Zonies Law Firm. Or $749,143 to a media consultant. Or $180,000 to the Virginia PR firm of another con man, Dan Hill, who publicly brags that he works on abuse issues “pro bono.”
(The above figures are taken from the most recent U.S. Center for SafeSport nonprofit papers at the Internal Revenue Service, which were filed on August 27, 2020. A more recent filing, to reflect the 2020 tax year, has not been posted by the IRS, which either is still indulging the center’s filing extensions or is slow in uploading the newest information.)
I wrote about Michael Henry and the center in an article earlier this year for Salon: “U.S. Olympic Committee’s controversial abuse investigator fails upward — to the federal courts,” https://www.salon.com/2021/05/11/us-olympic-committees-controversial-abuse-investigator-fails-upward–to-the-federal-courts/.
Central to that account were Henry’s and the center’s lies about and bad-faith execution of its investigation into the abuse, dating back to the 1980s, by now “retired” swimming coach Scott MacFarland, of Sarah Ehekircher, whose case – and related insights into organized swimming’s criminality and abuse culture – I have been championing for years. (Ehekircher’s lawsuit in California court against USA Swimming is now in mediation.)
But now, I have to admit, the U.S. Center for SafeSport has actually done something of substance. Specifically, it sent an October 13, 2021, “Notice of Allegations” to Jonathan Little, a lawyer who represents Ehekircher and dozens of other abuse claimants against multiple Olympic sports bodies.
The notice states: “It was reported to the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s Response and Resolution Office that you: were made aware of allegations of sexual misconduct and failed to timely report such allegations to appropriate authorities; discouraged the reporting of sexual misconduct; encouraged the concealment and destruction of evidence on the subject; contested the need to follow federal reporting requirements; refused to cooperate in the Center’s investigation; and retaliated against a USA Badminton employee for reporting sexual misconduct to the Center. It has been further alleged that you engaged in Abuse of Process by improperly disclosing the identity of Claimants in communications with both the USOPC and the United States Congress.”
The next step in the possible discipline of Little is … Interview with a SafeSport investigator.
In my analysis of what is characteristically Kafkaesque harassment of claimants and their advocates, Little is being charged with counseling his abuse clients not to waste their time bringing allegations against coaches to SafeSport’s kangaroo court. Instead, he advises survivors to take their information to law enforcement authorities.
For the record, I did not seek SafeSport’s comment for this article. The reason is that the center’s officials, from CEO Ju’Riese Colon on down, have never responded to my inquiries.
However, con man PR guy Dan Hill did, in 2018, fabricate the content of his single phone conversation with me, on his cell phone on a weekend, which he claimed was listened to, aghast, over “speaker phone” by his employees in his office. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=13122.
After publication of the Salon article earlier this year, Hill also tried to retail to my editors there the absurd lie that I “even mentioned [Hill’s] minor daughter, a survivor, in one of his blog posts.” See https://concussioninc.net/?p=14818.