PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE AMATEUR SPORT ACT TO ADVANCE ATHLETE WELFARE AND SAFETY
by Katherine Starr
Unlike athletes and students in schools and colleges who are protected by Title IX’s sexual harassment and abuse provisions, athletes in open amateur sports are currently unprotected from coach or sport leader misconduct except by criminal law. While the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has promulgated recommended policies, it does not require its national sport governing bodies (NGBs) nor the local organizations and coaches who are members of these championship conducting entities, to have such protections in place. Thus, children and adult participants in non-school youth sports programs nationwide are vulnerable to pedophiles and unethical coaches who use parent and athlete respect for their positions to manipulate their athletes to engage in inappropriate relationships and sexual exploitation.
Can you remember the days when you left your car parked at the curb as you walked into the airport to meet your loved one at the gate? We just walked right on in and could go anywhere we wanted with no questions asked – no ID, no X-ray machines, shoes on.
By now all of have heard about Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and his non- action in response to the Sandusky incident (an assistant coach caught in a sexual act with a young boy). I would describe Paterno as playing the role of a “bystander”. According to Merriam-Webster a bystander can be described as one present but not taking part in a situation or event ; a chance spectator.
I got to thinking about this bystander behavior as I read about the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim club officials who were purported to have been aware of a coach-athlete sexual relationship with a sixteen year old girl as far back as 2006, but who did nothing. At first glance one could argue that we should address the policy issue that no coach should be in a relationship with an athlete regardless of consent or age, which we should be the case, no question there. However , the deeper issue here is the question of knowledge of the situation and why neither club officials, coaches nor parents responded to it responsibly?