Marci A. Hamilton, Esq., CEO, CHILD USA
Nancy Hogshead, Esq., CEO, Champion Women
Robert Allard, Esq., Corsiglia, McMahon and Allard, LLP
Urgent Call to Congress: Protecting Athletes from Sexual Abuse in Tennis
We are writing to bring to your attention a critical issue that demands immediate action from Congress: the pervasive problem of sexual abuse and assault within the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport of tennis. In an era when the safety of children and young adults in sports is paramount, we believe that USTA’s negligence in implementing effective measures to prevent athlete sex abuse and assault is a grave concern that cannot be ignored.
The USTA, despite generating substantial profits, seems to prioritize financial gains over the safety of athletes. The United States Open, one of their flagship events, generated over $500 million in 2023, but it appears that little, if any, of that revenue is being allocated towards initiatives to prevent sexual predators from gaining access to and harming athletes. This is an alarming situation, particularly when tennis provides an extended one-on-one environment, primarily for young women.
Since 2002, 52 abusive tennis coaches or officials have been found to have sexually abused tennis athletes. It’s crucial to acknowledge that many victims of abuse never come forward, and the reported number of perpetrators within USTA is likely just a fraction of the actual abuse cases. USTA has even scaled back athlete protection policies due to concerns about liability, putting their athletes at risk.
We believe it is incumbent upon Congress to launch an investigation into USTA’s failure to protect athletes, similar to the actions taken against USA Gymnastics. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has failed to hold USTA accountable, necessitating legal action to ensure the organization is held responsible for the harm to these athletes and to instigate policy changes for the future safety of athletes.
In light of this, we would like to draw your attention to the following key points:
I. THE USTA RESISTED THE USOC’S EFFORTS AT THE TIME TO PROTECT ATHLETES FROM SEXUAL PREDATORS
In the past, the USTA refused to follow recommendations by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to strengthen child protection measures, putting the safety of athletes at risk.
II. THE USTA REFUSED TO PUBLISH A LIST OF KNOWN PREDATORS, LEADING TO THE SAVAGE MOLESTATION OF AT LEAST TWO BOYS
USTA failed to ban coaches with a history of sexual abuse, even when evidence was available, leading to the molestation of young athletes.
III. THE USTA FAILED TO BAN COACH/ATHLETE RELATIONSHIPS,WHICH ENABLED A TOXIC CULTURE AND THE SEXUAL ASSAULT OF KYLIE MCKENZIE
USTA has refused to prohibit romantic relationships between coaches and athletes, fostering a culture that enables sexual harassment and assault, as evidenced by the Kylie McKenzie case.
IV. USTA AND MS. MISCHEL HAVE ATTEMPTED TO SILENCE PAM SHRIVER
Ms. Mischel, the general counsel of USTA, attempted to intimidate and silence Pam Shriver, a respected tennis champion, who could provide damaging testimony about the organization.
V. SIMILAR TO ITS INVESTIGATIONS INTO USA SWIMMING AND GYMNASTICS, CONGRESS NEEDS TO INVESTIGATE HOW USTA CONTINUES TO ENDANGER ATHLETES
We urge Congress to investigate USTA, as was done with USA Swimming and gymnastics, to ensure the safety and welfare of athletes and to hold USTA accountable for its actions.
We implore Congress to take immediate action to protect young athletes and prevent further harm. The safety and well-being of athletes must always be a top priority, and it is Congress’s responsibility to ensure that NGBs like USTA are held accountable for their actions.
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