And USA Swimming may well be learning that lesson.
Not only is the beleaguered national governing body (NGB) of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) facing a Congressional inquiry into the long history of sexual abuse perpetrated by USA Swimming coaches (overseen by Rep. George Miller’s (D-Calif.) minority staff on the Committee for Education and the Workforce), the organization is also now feeling the effects of their own ill-fated lobbying efforts.
Recently I wrote of USA Swimming hiring high-powered lobbyists to defeat a bill in the California legislature (SB 131) that was meant to aid victims of sexual abuse in seeking damages against their abusers.
Well, as it turns out, the aggressive lobbying efforts by USA Swimming, as well as the Catholic Church, weren’t enough to derail passage of the legislation (it passed in September), which is now due to go into effect on January 1, if Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t veto the legislation prior to October 13. From all indications Brown will allow the bill to become law.
Additionally, what is brutally ironic here for USA Swimming, an organization that has repeatedly covered up abuse by coaches, is that the added publicity generated by their lobbying efforts to defeat the bill is now having an exponentially consequential effect; specifically, USA Swimming is now newly exposed to another time range of lawsuits previously barred by the statute of limitations. It is doubtful that this bill would have generated as much attention had there not been the coordinated lobbying efforts described above.
Among the possible future suits against USA Swimming are several high-profile cases that will lead right to USA Swimming headquarters in Colorado Springs; some of these cases are instances where USA Swimming likely thought they had heard the last of – and the ensuing political ramifications could be devastating to the organization.
Furthermore, the lawsuits will only further embolden the Congressional committee’s focus as they examine more closely USA Swimming’s past. According to numerous sources, Rep. Miller’s staff is doing an extremely thorough job in poring over the voluminous instances in which USA Swimming has come under criticism for not doing enough to handle these abuse cases.
And with increased awareness, it’s likely that more Congressional members will feel the need to take a stand and join such efforts.
On that note, it will be very interesting to watch the intensity of USA Swimming’s and, more to the point, the USOC’s efforts to lobby other members of Congress in an effort to mute the effects of any Congressional investigations. The Olympics are, as we all know, the biggest of big money sports and any soiling of the Olympic brand will be met with a fierce - and mightily funded - effort in countering such assertions.
But, if USA Swimming’s intensive efforts failed to achieve its goal in the California legislature, it’s doubtful the organization will be able to forestall a comprehensive Congressional inquiry.
Joyce is a contributing writer for Real Clear Sports and has been writing on the USA Swimming sex abuse scandal for nearly two years.