Blackburn, Peters Seek Feedback On Reports Of SafeSport Not Fully Meeting Mission To Protect Athletes From Abuse

February 7, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) today sent letters to over 50 National Governing Bodies (NGB) under the purview of the U.S. Center for SafeSport (“SafeSport”) regarding the reports that SafeSport is not fully realizing its mission to address and prevent abuse and misconduct in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement.

In response to the Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal, Congress authorized SafeSport to serve as the independent national safe sport organization with the charge to safeguard amateur athletes against abuse – including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse – in sports. The letters specifically ask for feedback so that Congress can ensure the Center is achieving its purpose.

A Well-Functioning, Independent Safe Sport Organization Has Never Been Needed More

“A well-functioning, independent safe sport organization has never been needed more. Indeed, due to a confluence of factors – namely, a mental health epidemic and increasing reports of athlete abuse – this need is particularly urgent. According to recent reports, student-athletes “continue to report elevated levels of mental health concerns, with rates of mental exhaustion, anxiety, and depression remaining 1.5 to two times higher than pre-pandemic levels.” At the same time, it is estimated “that 2-8% of young athletes had been sexually abused in some way.” Needless to say, these statistics are extremely troubling. SafeSport must have the authority and resources to thoroughly and efficiently investigate and resolve reports of abuse or misconduct affecting individuals in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement at national, regional, and local levels.”

As Athletes Still Experience Obstacles In Reporting Abuse, More Must Be Done To Ensure SafeSport Achieves Its Founding Mission

“Over the last seven years, SafeSport has made progress in helping athletes and families fight abuse in sports, but there is more to be done. Among other concerns, we have heard from NGBs, athletes, and advocates that SafeSport’s processes lack transparency, that investigations too often end in administrative closures, and that, as a result, NGBs may be handcuffed from taking action to protect athletes. In addition, complainants have cited delays in SafeSport’s processing of allegations and an appeals process that may be overly deferential to respondents, having the effect of forcing complainants to deliver the same testimony repeatedly. We are grateful for SafeSport’s work since its founding in helping to safeguard children, families, and the broader U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement. Still, athletes continue to experience obstacles in reporting abuse and misconduct to SafeSport and in seeing those reports adequately investigated and resolved. More must be done to ensure SafeSport achieves its founding mission.”

Click here to view a copy of the full letter.