In an open letter to the NCAA, a lawyer representing a former assistant gymnastics coach at Penn State calls for deeper NCAA investigations into allegations of abuse.
The letter, written by Martin Greenberg, a lawyer retained by former Penn State assistant gymnastics coach Samantha Brown, who worked under Jeff and Rachelle Thompson, an allegedly abusive husband and wife coaching duo, calls for the NCAA to require anti-bullying and anti-abuse measures to protect student-athletes.
In recent years, scandals regarding abusive coaches at the collegiate level have made headlines across the country. The letter outlines several instances of abuse, and explains how the power dynamic in college athletics creates an environment conducive to abuse.
“Student-athletes… are a vulnerable group at a university,” the letter reads. “Abusive coaches who win typically have strong support from the university and the community. Because of the atmosphere of fear that abusive coaches can create, student-athletes ‘avoid speaking up for fear of being seen as a complainer or troublemaker, injuring their opportunity to play. The player’s parents fear speaking up for fear of making a bad situation worse for their son or daughter, or invite censure from other parents who support the program.‘ This however means that the situation never gets addressed and the abuse continues because of the silent consent of those who fear the coach.”
Within the Penn State gymnastics program, an internal investigation turned up no evidence of abuse, and while head coach Rachelle Thompson is stepping down, head coach Jeff Thompson was retained. This, according to the letter, is despite the fact that the university investigator never interviewed Brown, who had compiled a journal full of examples of complaints and instances of abuse.
“Universities need be more concerned with protecting their student-athletes from an abusive coach than protecting themselves from legal action,” Greenberg writes. “Abuse is not good coaching, even when it results in winning. Placing winning games or revenues above sportsmanship, decency, fairness, and ethics is out of the question. The NCAA must take a stronger stance and provide rules sanctions for such kinds of conduct.”
“The NCAA needs to take immediate action to stem the outbreak of alleged mental and physical abuse in college athletics,” Greenberg writes. “It is critically important that the NCAA act now to protect the physical and mental wellbeing of our student-athletes.”
You can read Greenberg's letter in its entirety here.
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