Impressions of a Congressional Hearing

I guess lawyers are people too. Of the forty or so odd members of the "public" that got to attend this morning's congressional hearing, there were plenty of expensive black and navy blue suits in the audience. 

USA Swimming Executive Director and President Tim Hinchey was asked what our NGB's contribution to the budget for the National Center for Safe Sport was in the last year. The answer: $43,000 and a vague promise for "more". Left unsaid was how much the attorneys in attendance will bill USA Swimming for the 2.5 hour hearing.

That was just one thing that stood out to Sarah and I as we sat and looked on. I won't claim to speak for her, but the following quick hit thoughts emerged in the immediate aftermath:

1. What are background checks?

One of the most incisive questions to come out of the hearing was about background checks. NGB leaders (the heads of USA Swimming, Taekwondo, Volleyball and Gymnastics were there along with the Center for Safe Sport and the USOC) were asked how far background checks looked into the past, and what they covered.

No one knew for sure the answer to either of the two. The head of Taekwondo, Steve McNally, seemed confident that background checks would flag both felonies and misdemeanors, especially if they were violent or sexual in nature.

But USA Swimming has a prime example within the last couple months of Michael McCorvey, who was only banned last month after an indictment on sexual assault and criminal trespass that got plead down to just the trespass charge, a misdemeanor. 

2. Independence of the National Center for Safe Sport

Setting aside for a moment USA Swimming's paltry contribution to Safe Sport, which generally came across as vastly underfunded.

How can we expect the US Center for Safe Sport to be in anyway independent when the majority of their funding comes from the USOC and NGBs? Is it not just adding another layer for victims to wade through? The jury is still way out on the US Center for Safe Sport

3. Transparency is at a minimum

Many of the NGB leaders seemed genuinely unprepared to answer many of the questions posed to them. Susanne Lyons, the "new" CEO Of the USOC, often found herself at a loss for words.

There was little to no information gleaned from the hearing. With five minutes per representative, it was very easy to avoid giving answers of substance. We learned next to nothing about tangible steps that NGBs or the USOC are taking to address a long unaddressed crisis.

Many of the leaders feigned that they had only recently come on the job (all came into their positions 2017 or later). They believe that because of that, they shouldn't be expected to answer for what transpired into their organizations prior to their arrival. To be fair to Tim Hinchey, this question was never posed to him directly.

That kind of answer is totally unacceptable. Leadership requires that these leaders adequately address the past, no matter how mighty that task might be. 

I'll be tackling some of the bigger themes i see emerging, and what everyone and anyone can do to continue pushing this issue forward in coming posts.