California attorney Bob Allard has publicly urged the U.S. Sports Academy to rescind an honorary doctorate given to USA Swimming President Chuck Wielgus last month, while also repeating his call for a similar honor to be stripped from former NCAA football coach Joe Paterno.
Allard, a child advocacy lawyer who has represented a number of clients suing USA Swimming, says Wielgus has “a demonstrated history of protecting predator coaches” and compares Wielgus to Paterno, the former Penn State coach who was accused of ignoring or covering up sexual abuse of children by another coach on his staff.
Wielgus was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the U.S. Sports Academy. Allard has called for the award to be rescinded. He made similar calls against Paterno, but the USSA has not rescinded Paterno’s award.
We reached out to the U.S. Sports Academy for comment. Their response is below, followed by Allard’s full press release:
The United States Sports Academy’s Awards of Sport program over the past 32 years has honored hundreds of individuals for athletic accomplishments and contributions to sport around the world. The awards are given based on contemporary information about the accomplishments of the honorees, and the Academy has no procedure for rescinding honors once they have been conferred.
Regarding Mr. Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming, the Academy presented its 2016 Honorary Doctorate on the basis of his 20 years of service as executive director of USA Swimming; his positive efforts to enhance the sport across the United States; his success in leading USA Swimming to international leadership as evidenced by its dominance in the 2016 Rio Olympics; and the fact that he has the full faith and confidence of the Board of Directors of USA Swimming, including recent renewal of his contract as executive director.
Allard Press Release:
US Sports Academy Urged to Rescind Awards for Child Sex Abuse Enablers Chuck Wielgus and Joe Paterno
Mr. Allard is asking the US Sport Academy and other major colleges and universities to take the lead in getting rid of sexual abuse in the coaching ranks.
JANUARY 5, 2017 — SAN JOSE, CA — Childhood sex abuse attorney Robert Allard is urging the United States Sports Academy to rescind its awards to sex abuse enablers and to become a leader in the fight against coaches who sexually abuse their athletes. Late last year, the Academy honored the head of USA Swimming, Chuck Wielgus, and to date has yet to rescind the awards to former Penn St. coach Joe Paterno.
“Both Wielgus and Paterno have a demonstrated history of protecting predator coaches,” said Allard, “and at the same time ignoring the cries for help from those being abused.”
The Academy claims to have started in 1972 as a result of the need for a national school of sport. It provides students with a Sports Diploma in Sports Management or Sports Coaching.
“Given the prevalence of sex abuse in the coaching ranks, the responsible path for the Academy would be to include and educate prospective graduates with a curriculum aimed at preventing, identifying, and having a zero tolerance policy towards sex abuse,” stated Allard. “This type of curriculum should be mandatory in all colleges and universities offering degrees in sports-related fields.”
Wielgus was nominated for The International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2014 but a group of nearly two dozen sexually abused swimmers petitioned to successfully block his induction. The 2014 petition signed by dozens of abuse victims and their supporters stated in part, “ When it comes to sexual abuse, Chuck Wielgus has not been a leader in protecting victims; he has instead responded to outside pressure, and only after other avenues of obfuscation have been exhausted.”
This petition was submitted to the Academy in an attempt to rescind the honor bestowed upon Weilgus, but the spokesperson for the Academy refused, citing USA Swimming’s consistent gold medal performance under Wielgus’ watch.
“The Academy’s glorification of both Wielgus and Paterno embody a mentality that places winning ahead of the moral obligation to protect kids and athletes from predator coaches,” added Allard.
The Academy claims that nearly 1,300 students study sports annually in their degree programs, making their sport education programs among the largest in the world.