U.S. Soccer Athletes Council Urges Congress to Address Flaws in SafeSport Policies The U.S. Soccer Athletes Council has taken a bold stand, calling on Congress to address the perceived shortcomings of the Center for SafeSport's policies, which they argue are putting athletes at risk.
In a formal letter directed to both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, the council, representing the interests of athletes within the U.S. Soccer Federation, expressed its concerns about SafeSport's current state of affairs.
This appeal was signed not only by members of the U.S. women's national team, set to compete at the upcoming 2023 Women's World Cup, but also by athletes from the U.S. men's national team, U.S. youth national teams, and U.S. extended national teams.
The Center for SafeSport was established in 2017 to safeguard young athletes from sexual abuse in Olympic sports, follow alarming abuse scandals involving USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, and USA Taekwondo. One of its primary functions is to review and investigate allegations of sexual misconduct within these sports and can impose sanctions as severe as a lifetime ban.
Concerns Over 'Administratively Closed' Cases
The Athletes Council's letter specifically highlights three areas of concern. First, they raise alarm over the number of "administratively closed" cases, leaving both parties without a resolution.
This denies closure to victims and allows potential abusers to return to their sport unchecked. The second point of contention is that SafeSport's jurisdiction is considered too exclusive, preventing other governing bodies, like the USSF, from conducting their own evaluations or investigations into reported misconduct.
An incident involving former Chicago Red Stars manager Rory Dames exemplifies this issue, where the USSF had taken action against him, but SafeSport's ongoing investigation resulted in the reinstatement of his coaching license, despite prior abuse allegations.
Furthermore, the letter draws attention to the appeals process, which, when triggered, subjects the entire case to arbitration. This can be emotionally taxing for victims and may deter them from participating, leading to cases being overturned.
In their appeal to Congress, the U.S. Soccer Athletes Council emphasizes their desire to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to establish an efficient, fair, and effective system that prioritizes the safety and protection of athletes.
They acknowledge the necessity of addressing abuse concerns promptly and comprehensively while ensuring the reporting process is accessible and supportive for victims. The council's letter serves as a poignant reminder of the responsibility that both governing bodies and organizations like SafeSport bear in safeguarding athletes' well-being.
Their call to action demands a thorough examination of current policies and protocols to build a sports environment free from abuse and conducive to the growth and success of athletes across the nation. As the debate unfolds on Capitol Hill, the voices of these athletes resonate with urgency, demanding the essential changes to protect the integrity of sports and the safety of those who compete within it.