On April 1, 2020, the Center for SafeSport issued a new 2020 SafeSport Code. In doing so, it’s evident that SafeSport has listened to the public at large questioning the Center’s various functions and has chosen to “close the gaps” (i.e., silence these uncomfortable questions) by casting an even wider net over athletes, coaches, and national governing body (NGB) members.
That’s right: Now there are even more opportunities for folks to be caught in the SafeSport web of discipline and banishment.

  • Previously The Center had the discretion under the Code to publicly correct the record if facts or the process were misrepresented by reporter or respondent. The Center has now changed the code to, “There may be instances where it is unclear who perpetuated the misrepresentation, but that misrepresentation is nonetheless being taken seriously by the public (e.g., an anonymous source for a media outlet). This prior provision is important because it provides an express mechanism for the Center to correct the record if/when publicly disseminated misinformation seeks to undermine the Center’s process or mission.”

This is a very interesting change to the Code because the Center has an automatic GAG ORDER on Respondents and their designees (like attorneys) who are NOT permitted to show the public the actual documents that prove the Center, or its agents, is not being truthful. Therefore, a Center reported
Mis-representation may actually be truthful without the ability to clear the record due to the GAG order. This remains a one sided provision.

  • SafeSport’s Code previously allowed an accused party 5 days to request an Arbitration hearing; that has now been changed to allow them 10 business days (essentially two weeks) to request that hearing.

In addition, the Code previously allowed time for the accused person to pay for their Arbitration hearing; now, the rule is that if Arbitration is requested, the requestor has 30 days in which to make the full $5,200 payment. Failure to do so will prompt a 5-day notice that payment in full is due at that time. NO payment thereafter ends the Arbitration process for good.

Furthermore, SafeSport’s previous Code included a hardship exemption: For persons who could not pay the Arbitration fee, the Center would cover those costs. That has now been changed to an arbitrary decision as to what the Center will cover and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  • SafeSport’s Code previously included provisions concerning “aiding and abetting” the person who allegedly committed a prohibited act. The new Code expands those provisions along with its definition of “aiding and abetting” via new language stating, “when one aids, assists, facilitates, promotes, or encourages the commission of Prohibited Conduct by a Participant.”

This goes to the issue of whether a banned NGB member could give a clinic (as in equestrian sports) at someone’s farm or other private location. It could ensnare a landowner, horse owner, rider, money collector, host, etc., in SafeSport’s punitive net.

Congress intended the Center for SafeSport to have jurisdiction over NGB-related events. This in no way extends to unrelated activities on a person’s private property. SafeSport’s new Code is still vague and over-broad in trying to reach into the confines of non-NGB-related events held on privately owned land.

  • SafeSport’s previous Code did not have a provision expressly prohibiting “exposure of minor to sexual situations”; the new Code now includes this via the addition of the following language:

“An Adult Participant violates this Code by intentionally exposing a Minor to content or imagery of a sexual nature, including but [?]* limited to, pornography, sexual comment(s), sexual gestures, and/or sexual situation(s).” *[Editor’s Note: It appears that SafeSport meant to specify “…including but NOT limited to…”; however, as of 4/4/2020, their online pamphlet does not include the word NOT].

This would mean that a Participant had best not allow a Minor to overhear a phone conversation or joke, glimpse an online meme, or in any way incidentally encounter any remotely suggestive content of any kind. It seems that social distancing of at least 30 feet from Minor to Participant might be in order to ensure that Minor does not see nor hear anything the Minor perceives as violating this section of SafeSport’s new Code.

  • SafeSport’s new Code also prohibits “willful tolerance” of bullying or hazing, which means that if a coach is aware of bullying or hazing and tolerates it, the coach is now in danger of being disciplined by SafeSport.

By contrast, the Code previously noted if an Adult Participant reasonably suspects an incident involving a Participant. However, that language was removed from the new Code, because supposedly there was confusion among reporters as to if it was necessary to investigate whether or not the person they were reporting was in fact a “Participant”. Now you should just report everything you see, and the Center for SafeSport will decide if the person is a Participant.

  • The new SafeSport Code now expressly provides that the Center may also provide law enforcement with information and evidence as part of its Response & Resolution process.

Meanwhile, the Respondent is not entitled to see or be given this same information in the Respondent’s investigation until the Center has ruled that the Respondent has violated SafeSport’s Code (essentially, found the Respondent guilty).

Then — and only then — can the Respondent pay $5,200 to schedule Arbitration, whereupon they are finally given their first opportunity to see and read what was reported and/or is in the investigative file. Even then, the Respondent will see ONLY what the Center chose to put in their file, because not everything in SafeSport’s investigation makes it to the actual file.

Note that when the criminal prosecutor in a state action discovers evidence that tends to find you not guilty, they are obligated under the law to give you that information (known as Brady material); they can’t hide it from you. However, SafeSport is NOT obligated to give you this exculpatory material and in fact does not provide such information to Respondents. Shocking, but true!

Read the new SafeSport Code here:

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