It’s hard to overstate the significance of yesterday’s news that USA Swimming has paid heavy-breathing lobbyist Nielsen Merksamer for the purpose of scuttling California State Senate Bill 131, which is designed to eliminate the statute of limitations in civil lawsuits by victims of sexual abuse.
As our headline noted, the most basic takeaway from this story is that the parallels between USA Swimming and the Catholic Church are no longer figures of speech. They are facts on the ground. Those with remaining doubts about the dead-bang similarities of club-hopping pedophile youth sports coaches and parish-hopping molesting priests need to reexamine their critical faculties and reset their moral compasses.
On cue, and with the full enabling of the “amen corner” of the swimming media, USA Swimming was quick to issue a statement explaining that their problem with the proposed California legislation is that it doesn’t go far enough. Or whatever the hell they’re arguing here:
“When USA Swimming created its Safe Sport program, our 100% commitment was to prevent abuse and keep athletes safe. We remain committed to that charge and abhor any abuse that happens to anyone. We have many components of this program, including background screens, educational programs, an updated Code of Conduct and Safe Sport leadership conference.
“With that said, we have concerns with California SB 131 and USA Swimming, on behalf of our current and future members, has engaged Nielsen Merksamer to work with us on opposing this bill in its current form. For example, this bill does not hold the abusers accountable and excludes governmental agencies even when they are the employer.”
I don’t expect U.S. Congressman George Miller to fall for this pile of pap. Miller, the California Democrat who is ranking minority member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, last month asked the Government Accountability Office to expand its probe into sex crime reporting requirements in current law, in order to include how they cover such entities as our national swimming governing body, as authorized by the U.S. Olympic Committee under the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.
USA Swimming’s “concerns” about the scope of the California bill can be debated another day. Basically, they betray the agenda of subsidizing public sports institutions through such brazenly profiteering instruments as this organization’s tax-dodging, junket-friendly United States Sports Insurance Company — so conveniently and counter-intuitively based in Barbados.
But the ultimate boomerang of Big Swimming’s lobbying effort is simply that it exists. These irresponsible and self-interested upholders of the Olympic way are now so scared that they are now flouting the law barring non-profits from such practices.
In my part of the country, there’s a dairy company called Berkeley Farms with the famous slogan, “Farms? In Berkeley?” To this we can add, “Lobbying? In swimming?”
Congressman Miller, the floor is yours.