Sports is often held up as an area in which individuals can not only achieve their personal best, but also demonstrate qualities like perseverance and teamwork considered as ideals not just for competition but throughout life. Children are encouraged to participate in sports from a young age as part of developing a well-rounded personality. Athletes, coaches, and other sports leaders may even be held up as heroic figures to be emulated, and sports culture can be tight-knit and insular.
Unfortunately, many high-profile cases have shown how this atmosphere can be used as cover for bad actors to exploit their positions of trust and authority to commit horrific acts of sexual abuse and harassment, corruption, embezzlement, and bullying. These include:
One of the most striking aspects of many sports scandals is how long they continue before coming to light. People are often afraid to speak up for a variety of reasons. If hazing and bullying are seen as part of the culture, they’re afraid to be singled out as “not a team player.” Those around an abuser who also happens to be a winning coach or a star player hesitate to sacrifice winning to investigating allegations of misbehavior. In short, when winning at all costs is prioritized over the well-being of athletes, those who should know better often turn a blind eye to acts that should never be tolerated—and individuals caught in a dysfunctional system may not have the means to have their concerns heard.
Is this simply a matter of isolated, if horrific, cases in high-stakes situations? Unfortunately, research shows otherwise. Abuse and harassment can and do occur at all levels of sports. ChildHelp, a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse, notes that 40 to 50% of athletes have experienced anything from mild harassment to severe abuse, according to studies. At the university level, the NCAA reports that 74% of student-athletes experienced at least one form of hazing while in college. Additionally, corruption in sports is a global problem, as detailed in a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; among the obstacles to detecting and reporting corruption cited, it noted “Potential whistle-blowers are still discouraged from reporting corruption by the fear of retaliation or the belief that reporting will not make a difference.”
To transform a sports organization’s culture from one that tacitly sweeps misconduct under the rug to one that does not tolerate abuse, harassment, or corruption, it is essential to enable its members—athletes, coaches, trainers, support staff, parents, etc.—to report issues of concern anonymously to those with the will and means to investigate and act. #NotMe’s reporting app enables anyone to speak up with complete confidentiality from their phone, tablet, or laptop, and was designed to remove fear of retaliation as a deterrent. This puts critical information in the hands of your organization before misconduct has dragged on for weeks, months, or years; oftentimes, before misconduct has become severe or pervasive. Smaller instances of misconduct can always be nipped in the bud if they’re reported and diligently looked into. Facilitating reporting or speaking up enables people to come forward earlier, before things have escalated and have gone out of control. It is easier for everyone (victims, witnesses, and an organization) to address behaviors of lower intensity than serious accusations.
The fact that our #NotMe reporting app integrates with our case management system, which enables efficient investigation of complaints with report management tools that facilitate communication and the gathering of evidence, dramatically improves the investigation experience and process. A clear audit trail is maintained throughout, providing the accountability and transparency necessary to demonstrate an organization’s commitment to high standards of conduct.
If your sports organization is seeking positive change to support your athletes and promote values of fair play, respect, and ethical conduct, NotMe Solutions can help. To find out more, contact us here today.