I just got a call from Avni Patel, a producer at 20/20. They had to cut my segment out due to length, which is fine by me. But Avni says portions of the interview will be on their website next week.
I’m sad to say that if you think what I described earlier today sounds bad, it’s nothing compared to what the true victims have suffered. So as 20/20 investigated, more victims nationwide came out of the woodwork. What I’ve seen and read is appalling and makes me want to throw up.
Avni was apologetic, but that this is in the national news is good enough for me, and also, let us not forget that I have a powerful blog, and I have seventeen readers.* If seventeen readers tell seventeen friends, and they tell seventeen friends, then seventeen times three people will know about this (that was easier to say than actually doing the math).
On the 20/20 webpage, there is an ABC News report that gives some background into the story. As of this typing, there are 66 comments. One of them is from Chuck Wielgus, President of USA Swimming. He doesn’t seem to be very happy with the report.
I mean, I can understand why. We have to remember that 36 coaches have been banned from coaching for USA Swimming for life. They’re taking a stand. One of banned coaches is Andy King, for example. Way to go, USA Swimming, banning him now that he’s been sentenced to forty years in prison. That sends a very strong message that convicted child molesters living in prisons will not be tolerated in the program.
I’m posting in full Chuck Wielgus’ comment to the ABC News item on this, so he can’t accuse me of taking anything out of context, but with one particular sentence that I have put into bold, because I have something to say about that.
I understand and appreciate the sentiment, and even the outrage, that some people might have over my comments about apologizing, or not apologizing, to the victims of these terrible crimes. While the quotes are accurate, they fail to take into account the context in which they were given during my interview with Brian Ross. I agreed to participate in the interview with Mr, Ross because I saw this as an opportunity to openly discuss what is a major societal issue and global problem. The issue of inappropriate behavior by adults with underage youth is something that every youth-serving organization must face; including all youth sports programs, schools, camps, clubs, religious youth groups, etc. While no organization has a child protection system that is fool proof, USA Swimming has safeguards that are constantly being reviewed and improved upon. When Mr. Ross agressively asked me if I owed an apology to the victims, I confess to taking umbrage to what I at first interpreted as a personal attack. Having worked with the volunteer and staff leaders of USA Swimming for more than a dozen years, I knew first-hand how committed these people were to constantly finding ways to improve every aspect of the organization’s programs and services and my comments were a reflex reaction to what I perceived as an unfair attack. My heart breaks for these poor kids who lost so much of their innocence when they put their trust and faith in a coach who then used his position of trust and authority to take advantage of them. I’m incredibly sorry these awful things happened, but the reality is that I also believe USA Swimming was doing everything it reasonably could to have appropriate safeguards in place; and we will continue to evaluate and implement whatever additional safeguards we can to help our member clubs provide as safe and healthy an environment as possible for the hundreds of thousands of kids who have chosen to participate in sport of swimming.
Mr. Wielgus, what you’re supposed to say is, “I’m incredibly sorry that we failed you.”
*I might not even have seventeen readers.