With sexual abuse scandals plaguing USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, and USA Taekwondo, the national governing body for wrestling is putting bizarre new policies in place that will subject those who cover the sport to harsher protocols.
All coaches, volunteers, referees, and medical personnel who work with USA Wrestling are required to submit to a background check and complete an online training program created by the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, an organization meant to investigate claims of abuse in U.S. Olympic sports. Now, USA Wrestling wants to force journalists covering their events to go through the same background check and training program.
USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender told the Washington Post that no journalist who covers wrestling events has been accused of abusive behavior, but he sees these new requirements as a proactive measure to make the sport safer. He also acknowledged that these new protocols might drive away media coverage, but he didn’t see that possibility as a deterrent:
“But at the end of the day, it’s more important in our minds to take steps to create a safe environment as opposed to making it easier for the media to cover your sport. We want to do everything in our power to make wrestling more attractive and draw media to our sport. But nothing’s more important than keeping it safe.”
The Associated Press Sports Editors organization has already denounced the new policy, and has called for journalists to avoid covering USA Wrestling events while the new rules are in place. APSE president Jeff Rosen told the Post that, “The lack of specificity on background checks, including the extent and areas of the checks, and the disposal of information and indemnification of the media is both alarming and dangerous.”
Given that it was media scrutiny that originally brought the crimes of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to light, any policy that will effectively tamp down similar scrutiny of other sports seems unwise.