USA Gymnastics Predicament
My Fellow Gymnastics Community,
Statement from: Brent Klaus, President & CEO of IGC
February 19, 2018
The USOC/USA Gymnastics Predicament
There is something that has been weighing on my mind, and I feel the story needs to be told. Please take a few minutes to read my critique of last year’s USA Gymnastics National Congress, Anaheim, California, August 16 -19, 2017.
Thank you in advance for your kind consideration.
Below are a few questions that International Gymnastics presented regarding USA Gymnastics.
1. Who is Accountable?
The entire administration of USA Gymnastics, our Official Governing Body, must be held accountable yet their current actions clearly demonstrate that they continue to turn a blind eye to this accountability.
2. Was USA Gymnastics board and management either complacent, complicit or incompetent?
The USAG Board was incompetent and although some management has been replaced, the fact remains that a majority of the underlying administrative structure who held key positions during this deplorable time continue to be employed by USAG.
3. Is USA Gymnastics guilty of impropriety?
With every passing day, more and more information is being made available verifying that USAG is clearly guilty of impropriety.
Furthermore, we are of the opinion that in their duty to exercise reasonable care of minors, USAG was grossly negligent.
4. For those who currently place their trust in USA Gymnastics, consider this fact. There is clear and compelling evidence to support the allegation that throughout its entire existence USA Gymnastics has been a controlling, repressive and tyrannical governing body to much of its membership. Should we not have a right to a governing body that places the member clubs’ needs above that of the selfish needs of USA Gymnastics?
This is a question for you, as the gymnastics community, to answer. International Gymnastics feels yes. USA Gymnastics was formed with good intentions, but during the 50 years of its existence, it has become corrupt with power, bartering for Olympic gold in place of the safety and well-being of our most precious resource, the kids in our sport! Imagine, how many more champions would be standing tall had it not been for this continual, despicable abuse.
The current governing body, USA Gymnastics, is corrupt at its core. We deserve additional opportunities and choices.
5. When the US Olympic committee recommended that the former CEO, Steve Penny, resign, who was responsible for his receiving a large bonus and glowing recommendation?
This has yet to be made public but with diligence and courage on our part, it will come to light.
6. When the Female Athletes went to the United States Senate seeking change, why was USA Gymnastics not there?
7. Why are people and sponsors still supporting this organization, an organization that has not come forward to support these women or their heroic acts?
IGC was a significant USAG sponsor for many years. And yet we were the first to pull our sponsorship as allegations became apparent. IGC did so over a year ago.
Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, AT&T, Under Armour and Hershey’s were slow to respond, but they have finally pulled their sponsorships. Still others like Elite Sportswear (GK) has continued to sponsor USA Gymnastics.
8. IGC wants to thank those heroes who have stepped forward forcing USA Gymnastics to reluctantly make even minor changes and for giving so many athletes the courage to find their voices to tell their stories. These are our fearless “heroes”!
The dictionary defines hero as, “a person noted for courageous acts of nobility of character.” These women have helped to change, in a positive way, the lives of thousands of gymnasts and millions in youth sports. It even brought them to the United States Congress to tell their stories of emotional, psychological and sexual misconduct issues. Senator Dianne Feinstein was so impressed and moved that she introduced a bill to the Senate on March 6, 2017, “to prevent the sexual abuse of minors and amateur athletes by requiring prompt reporting of sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities and for other purposes.” The bill has passed through the proper committees and has been signed by the President into law.
During the 2017 National Congress, International Gymnastics Camp’s message was very well received by the membership who stopped by to provide support, to sign the pledge and to wear the blue “Alliance for Accountability” ribbon. Moms, dads, club owners, coaches, both male and female, and vendors shared stories of mental, physical, psychological and sexual abuse. It is apparent that our sport has become riddled with these predators. So much so, that some clubs have experienced financial disaster and still others have parents who are afraid to have their children participate in the sport at all.
Here are some of the stories that USAG members shared with Geri Johnston, Executive Assistant, IGC.
1. A young adult in her late 20’s told me that her mom married her coach. The coach/step father began grooming her at age 6 and the sexual abuse began shortly thereafter and continued until she was around 12. She felt that since this was her mom’s husband, she had no one she could tell at that time. She told me that she found out that a week before National Congress, some 15 or more years later, that this coach, who had been able to keep his USA Gymnastics professional membership, had finally been put in jail;
2. A mom shared her daughter’s story of abuse by Dr. Larry Nassar that went on for years. She explained that her family and Nassar’s family became friends over a period of time. They never suspected that there was any impropriety as her young daughter was escorted into Dr. Nassar’s basement for “treatment.” Her daughter never realized that this so called, “treatment” she was having was actually molestation until one day at college she called her mom in tears and blurted out the experience. She made a U-tube video called, “The Truth About Larry Nassar” for all to see;
3. A coach came to the booth to let me know that she had reported suspected abuse to her club owner – her club owner did nothing! Because she knew this was happening, she called USA Gymnastics and begged them to do something! She spoke to them for over two hours asking for help – still nothing! To add insult to injury, she was fired from her coaching position and is being sued by her club for defamation. She has lost almost everything defending herself. She is expecting to lose her house next;
4. A Michigan club owner came to the booth in tears to recount her story. Her club is directly affected by the horror that USA Gymnastics has caused for not dealing with this many years ago. She has had to field an enormous amount of questioning from parents, who are now afraid for their children to participate in gymnastics. They want to know what she knew and if the abuse took place in her gym! Since USA Gymnastics has never been forthcoming with appropriate information – local gym clubs have been held out to fend for themselves in this regard. This club owner is devastated and business virtually ruined;
5. A gentleman came to the booth to thank us for standing up for what is right! He wanted to sign our pledge of support to the athletes who came forward and to wear the blue ribbon. The tears in his eyes and those streaming down his face led me to believe that he had been abused or someone very close to him had been abused. While he didn’t share a story, the hug he gave me after he signed our pledge, I will remember for the rest of my life!
USA GYMNASTICS ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSES
In sharp contrast, here is what people representing USA Gymnastics shared:
1. Loree Galimore, Director of Club Services, initially passed by the booth and her reaction was to say “tacky.” She was offered a blue ribbon, Alliance for Accountability, in support of the athletes, which she refused. She returned later and was cordial, but questioned Phil Frank, a Safety Certifier, if he had completed the several courses mandated and suggested for National instructors. When Phil assured her that he had taken all the requirements, her attitude improved. She assured me that all the new steps USA Gymnastics was now taking would address all the issues. Phil explained to Loree that the videos and information presented by Safe Sport had already been part of the Safety/Risk Management Course, and that USA Gymnastics had not followed its own advice to those who had taken the management course. Phil reaffirmed that the gymnastics culture had to change. Loree said that much of this problem, “started at home with the parents.” This statement left Phil dumbfounded. To divert our responsibility to the children in our charge to the parents who entrust their safety and well-being to us, is unconscionable.
Loree’s statement and reactions at the IGC booth provide insight into how USA Gymnastics employees handle difficult issues.
2. A Regional Director: Walked by the booth several times, only glaring at it disapprovingly, but refusing to engage in any kind of discourse.
This is a prime example of how title hungry individuals are more concerned about their position, than what is actually happening in the gymnastics community.
3. Ron Galimore, Chief Operating Officer at USAG: Walked by the booth, kept right on walking…..
For Ron Galimore, as Chief Operating Officer, not to engage in a conversation concerning this critical on-going problem, is truly “sad” and “speaks for itself”.
4. Mark Busby (Legal Counsel for USA Gymnastics) and Erica Koven (Director of Member Services): Erica Koven introduced Bruno Klaus and Phil Frank to Mark Busby, the new counsel just two weeks on the job. His background is in child advocacy and he was a prosecuting attorney in child abuse cases prior to coming on board with USA Gymnastics. Both he and Erica were cordial and very interested in our point of view, wanting to establish a “dialogue” with us regarding the issue. Mr. Busby expressed the fact that he was trying to gather as much information as he could on the issues involved because of his “newness” on the job. He wanted more information and facts to enable him to effectively understand and do his job.
Although Mark Busby said he would reach out to IGC to gather additional critical information specific to these ongoing issues, we have yet to hear from Mr. Busby about anything whatsoever to date.
5. Jay Binder (BOD Vice President/Sec., Non-voting) stopped to talk. He seemed anxious to explain USA Gymnastics recent action and inactions. He blamed the USOC for holding onto the files of reported abuse, saying that they had a mandated protocol to protect coaches and the USAG had to follow it. It seemed strange to me as that would have been unlawful in the State of Indiana, which has mandates for reporting suspected child abuse.
Mr. Binder also agreed that the board needed more transparency, but that the “leadership” kept them in the dark about much that the board felt they needed to know. He stated that several people were vocal in asking for more transparency. The reporter who interviewed Jamie Dantzscher, while she was in the booth to answer questions and sign autographs, announced herself as a reporter to Mr. Binder and asked if she could record our conversation. Mr. Binder said no and would not continue the conversation in front of her. He did want to continue the “dialog” with us at “some point.” He never did.
Who is lying? USA Gymnastics, the USOC or both? In the media, USAG’s mishandling of this situation is already deemed bigger than Penn State. If the mandate (which encompasses many sports) by USOC to protect coaches is true, in our opinion, this will sadly become a bigger embarrassment than the Catholic Church debacle.
6. John Hewett (Chief Financial Officer for the past 33 years, of USAG) stopped at the booth and began to engage Abie Grossfeld and Bruno Klaus in conversation, stating that they both had a long history of “having it out” for USA Gymnastics. Abie and Bruno related a long account of many instances of abuses of power that the membership and that they personally had suffered under past and present USA Gymnastics leadership. Red in the face, Mr. Hewitt tried to dismiss their complaints due to them holding grudges. Phil Frank interrupted him by saying that the booth’s message was not about old grudges or ancient history, but rather, what was happening right now. That seemed to stop his accusatory tone.
As Chief Financial officer for the past 33 years, John Hewett had to have known about the large sums of money distributed to athletes as “hush money.” Will there ever be financial transparency?
Accountability falls directly on the shoulders of the administrators of the USAG, particularly the administrators of our Elite Programs. It is contemptible that these alleged professionals couldn’t or wouldn’t bear the weight!
The Gymnastics Community will not follow the wolf in sheep’s clothing! USA Gymnastics has been a shameful disgrace to all of us and as such, must be purged of the current administration in its entirety, or we as the United States gymnastics community must work tirelessly to establish our own unique governing body/bodies for the betterment of gymnastics.
We must serve and protect our most precious resource – the kids in our sport!
I welcome all responses and input.
President and CEO
International Gymnastics Camp