Attorney Claims Cal Coach Teri McKeever a Victim of Gender Bias

by Riley Overend 178

June 26th, 2022 College, News, Pac-12

Teri McKeever’s attorney spoke out for the first time publicly to the OC Register in defense of the longtime Cal coach accused of bullying by dozens of swimmers. 

The myriad of allegations detailing verbal, emotional, and physical abuse by McKeever have been skewed by gender bias in the standards female coaches are held to, according to her attorney, Thomas Newkirk.

Newkirk is the same attorney who represented swim coaches Janelle Atkinson (Stony Brook) and Petra Martin (Rutgers) in gender discrimination lawsuits. Atkinson received a $385,000 settlement, while Martin received a $725,000 settlement.

Teri McKeever might have said something one day. She might have had a rough day like any female or male coach. She might have said something out of school. Maybe she did. But the point is we pick up on any mistake of the female,” Newkirk said. “That she said something a little rough. She said something out of school or she had a rough day. Or she was just tired herself. And we then assume that moment of bad behavior or poor behavior in a day was the entire cause of all the athlete’s problems that they allege. That’s how gender affects the process on both ends.

“It happens all the time where the female coach is described as saying something negative but she never said the words,” Newkirk added about the double standard. “But because she’s a female she’s supposed to respond in a nurturing way. She’s supposed to be more attentive to the athletes, more caring of the feelings of the athletes. And when Teri McKeever and other females do not respond in that expected way the athletes assume that she’s being critical of them in a very specific way. ‘She called me stupid.’ ‘She said I was dumb’. ‘She told me I was an idiot.’ The coach never actually says that stuff. The athlete is superimposing their feelings from what the coach actually said.”

The investigation into the claims against McKeever could take up to six months after she was placed on administrative leave on May 25. 

Newkirk said Cal’s administration has known about McKeever’s coaching style and shown approval by extending her contract, most recently in January of 2020. He also questioned the specificity of allegations made against the 29-year head coach. 

“My shortcut to everyone, to you, the readers, to the athletes who have complained themselves, and to their parents, the people really believe that Teri is abusive is that they do believe it,” Newkirk said. “I’m not accusing anyone of lying. I mean I’m sure that there are people who lie and exaggerate but what happens because no one is actually challenging these athletes to actually talk about the actions of Teri McKeever in a very specific fact driven way. What did she say exactly? What did she do exactly? What was the context of what she said or did exactly? Did you hear that or did you just report what other people told you. No one’s doing that. You’re not doing that. The university is not doing that, normally.”

Former Cal swimmers had detailed several specific incidents of bullying ranging from deeply personal insults to McKeever accusing them of lying about medical conditions to even mocking a suicide attempt. 

“This has nothing to do with gender bias,” said Danielle Carter, a former Golden Bears swimmer, who nearly committed suicide because of what she described as months of bullying by McKeever. “She uses and weaponizes what she knows about you and your illnesses against you.”

“I just feel like I’m being victimized all over again for speaking out,” said Chloe Clark, a former Cal swimmer who transferred because of McKeever’s alleged bullying, which included accusing her of lying about having Crohn’s Disease. “He’s calling us out for ‘not being able to handle it.’

“I’m appalled by his statements. There are a lot of people with a lot of examples (of bullying) and (McKeever) hasn’t been held accountable for a long time.”

In response to the charges of McKeever calling Carter’s suicide attempt “pathetic,” “stupid,” and “selfish” while laughing in her face, Newkirk said he didn’t know whether that reaction was inappropriate or not. 

“Let’s say that’s true because I don’t know,” Newkirk said. “Let’s say that’s true. Let’s say that Teri McKeever on this one day said it’s stupid and selfish. Why are we assuming that was an inappropriate thing to say. Are we psychologists? Do we understand how we’re supposed to respond to people who may think about or may consider committing suicide. How are we responding to this thing? And let’s say she did say it. Let’s say it’s the one day that she was just having a bad damn day and she said this is selfish, it is selfish and it’s stupid for you to do that. And she was engaging in pop psychology we shouldn’t have done. Is that comment justified for labeling this Hall of Fame coach as an abuser and a bully?”

In regards to the allegations that McKeever targeted two African American swimmers last season and recently used a racial epithet and profanities while disparaging rap music, Newkirk said it was a matter of political correctness. 

“If she said the word in that context she’s not directing at African Americans,” Newkirk said. “How in the world is that inappropriate? Is it just inappropriate because it’s politically incorrect? Because you’re not ever supposed to ever say the word even if it’s being used in a different context? Professors can’t say the word? Lawyers can’t say the word even though I’m defending a client who is African American?

“What you have here is the politically correct claim that you’re not supposed to use that word in any context with the labeling of mocking when that’s not what she’s doing. So in other words we’re assuming she’s mocking. We’re defining her, labeling her as mocking and then we’re also ignoring the fact that she’s been there for 30 years. Is there some pattern, does she have some pattern that rap music will never be played or listened to? No. … Does she have any behavior that suggests Black athletes or engages in behavior against African Americans that is significantly different than white Americans? No.”

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swammers
1 month ago

Cal coach Teri McKeever’s intentional actions were a sustained pattern of aggression by a person with more power targeting someone with less power. The key is that her actions were repeated, knowingly causing harm.

For facts from a Cal swim athlete, please see this first person essay published in SI:
https://www.si.com/.amp/college/2022/06/28/first-person-essay-recent-cal-swim-team-member-coach-teri-mckeever

Moose
1 month ago

Gaslighting at its finest.

DumbDad
1 month ago

I read Mr. Newkirk’s arguments out loud to my wife. They sound more ridiculous than they look. There is no excuse to treat athletes so poorly. Yes I believe these Athletes’ stories. It doesn’t matter that some may handle criticism better than others and that perhaps she has coached 1,000 other swimmers, many to national prominence, who didn’t feel compelled to complain. We’re all different, all of us hear and see the same things yet perceive them differently in every facet of our lives. These Girls were bullied and intimidated and were practicing and competing within a hostile environment….by definition. You can try and defend it as much as you like but it’s 2022 not 1982. The ends do not… Read more »

#AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

The athlete is superimposing their feelings from what the coach actually said.

What was the context of what she said or did exactly? Did you hear that or did you just report what other people told you.

These arguments likely have a lot of validity to them. I think that a lot of these athletes are distorting what Teri actually said for how they felt at the time. Only time will tell but I think there could be a lot of truth to this.

Why are we assuming that was an inappropriate thing to say. Do we understand how we’re supposed to respond to people who may think about or may consider committing suicide. 

As far as I… Read more »

daimo
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

Ok, you had me up until that 1950’s comment. While it looks like SCOTUS will be dragging us that way anyway, the answer to your question is that it is well documented that there are more college students currently who are consumers of mental health services and experiencing mental health problems. The reasons for this are several with the primary ones being greater attention to mental health and less suffering in silence, and greater resources (availability of treatment and efficacy of medication) which allow students to succeed at higher levels of education and competition. These are good things, and for what its worth, the suicide has changed negligibly since 1950 to today (+1.6% for men and +.6% for women.) … Read more »

#AthleteLivesMatter
Reply to  daimo
1 month ago

Daimo, you mention that “college mental health services are underfinanced and understaffed”. How much more funding do they need to run properly?

I am skeptical of the claim that mental health services are underfunded on campus. I do not know the specifics of UCal Berkley’s mental health resources on campus, but I am willing to bet they offer them to all students. I will agree with you that coaches, trainers, advisors should not have to be responsible for the mental health burden. It is not their area.

#AthleteLivesMatter

daimo
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

Frankly, a lot. You’re correct that they offer them to all students, regardless of whether its at Cal or elsewhere (at least those colleges that have them.) But they operate on a triage model that is designed to establish safety, refer out to community providers, or offer supportive every-other week treatment. Feel free to do your own research on this, here’s a starter: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/09/crunch-college-counseling

Peaty55Paris
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

Yea let’s go back to the 1950’s mentality where abuse was commonhold, mass lynchings were acceptable and mental health was nonexistent. This is where your generation or whatever insane belief system you have are so out of touch it’s laughable and scary. Your laughable point of why there were no “complaints” in the 1950’s and before was because they didn’t understand or take mental health seriously. If you don’t agree with PTSD being a real thing then that is the 50’s mantra. They simply dismissed it as “combat fatigue” showcasing their neglect of a very serious mental health condition. My point is that if they didn’t take PTSD seriously neglecting our veterans, why would people struggling with non-diagnosed mental health… Read more »

#AthleteLivesMatter
Reply to  Peaty55Paris
1 month ago

This is an absurd post. In my last paragraph, I asked mostly questions. For you to compare my questions about mental health to supporting mass lynchings is just outright unhinged. I am asking questions. No one will ever know all the answer about mental health.

People could have made complaints in the 1950’s, but most people were not quick to become offended. People back then generally had thick skin. I think that is an important thing that we have lost over time.

Lastly, you then try to compare my questions to sexual molesting of children. This is perhaps your most unhinged comparison yet! My original comment has nothing to do at all with sexual molesting. You are just… Read more »

Orange Theories
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

#AthleteLivesMatter – that’s exactly the point. People like you, the MAGA crowd, like to pretend like everything is Leave it to Beaver, but that’s because they ignore the consequences of the attitudes they’ve described.

The same culture that made it unacceptable to “complain” about verbally, emotionally, and mentally abusive coaching made in unacceptable to “complain” about sexual abuse. This is irrefutable fact.

If you can’t understand that, then there’s no reason to continue this conversation.

#AthleteLivesMatter
Reply to  Orange Theories
1 month ago

This is unhinged. I have never said anything about the president; yet, you are referring to me as “the MAGA crowd”. I am not talking about Trump or Biden. Why do you have to label people? Can I not just be a free and independent thinker?

#AthleteLivesMatter

Peaty55Paris
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

I wasn’t comparing your comments to molestation or mass lynchings. The basis of your remarks was about the ’50s mindset. So I simply made an observation that those horrendous activities were generally “accepted” and swept under the rug in the 50s. I was pointing out how flawed the 50’s mindset was and even the ’70s and 80’s.
So why would we go back to a mindset when that was common this is what my point was. I was not trying to “smear” you in anything and if you didn’t understand my simple allusions to point out the flaws in the 50’s thinking system that’s on you.
Also, I have to say I agree people do get offended very… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Peaty55Paris
#AthleteLivesMatter
Reply to  Peaty55Paris
1 month ago

Well I am glad we were able to find some common ground.

#AthleteLivesMatter

Peaty55Paris
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

Well do you understand my point? I am quite curious.

Admin
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

My parents would vehemently disagree with the belief that their parents (who grew up before the 1950s) had no mental health problems.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

I’m pretty sure it’s just another example of this:

comment image

Snarky
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Lefties rule!

Peaty55Paris
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Exactly

#AthleteLivesMatter
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Hi Braden! Thanks for the response, I appreciate your post. I absolutely acknowledge that there were people who had mental health issues in the 1950’s and earlier. My post said,

“Why were there not this many mental health problems and complaints in the 1950’s and earlier? It seems to me that more and more people are experiencing mental health problems and filing complaints against coaches. Maybe if our society went back to the 1950’s mentally of how to deal with this, we would have less problems? There was less suicide back then and it might be telling us that the 1950’s method of being tough was better for everyone.”

I made the bold parts to show that there were mental… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by #AthleteLivesMatter
Admin
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

There was something that contributed to “fewer” mental health problems, and you don’t have to wonder, as there has been tons of research done on it. The primary factor was: “a culture of silence.” People with mental health problems were sent off to asylums to live in padded rooms, and had pick axes driven into their skulls. So people just suffered in silence.

They even named a whole generation after it: the “silent generation.”

Also, the suicide rate in the 1950s wasn’t that much lower than today. 13.2/100,000 vs. 14.2/100,000. Realistically, two things are probable: one is that suicides were unreported in the 1950s at a much higher rate than they are today. The other is that there was far… Read more »

#AthleteLivesMatter
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Thanks for the reply Braden. I would say I disagree that a reason for less suicide was lower access to methods of suicide. I found this article that talks about gun ownership rates. It does not go back to the 1950s but it shows that in the past there was a higher gun ownership rate and there is a decline up to the present.

https://www.norc.org/PDFs/GSS%20Reports/GSS_Trends%20in%20Gun%20Ownership_US_1972-2014.pdf 

So there might be more guns in an absolute number today, but a lower percentage of gun ownership. I would assume that higher gun ownership rates would make it more possible than a high absolute number of guns. But I also agree with you that attempts are probably more important to… Read more »

Hmm
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

I though you wanted a fair trial and to hear both sides?
Yet here you are again not trusting the victims and giving Teri the benefit of the doubt.
I actually heard her say, word for word, some of the things these girls speak of. I had here say things directly to me that her bosses admitted to being inappropriate and discriminatory.

#AthleteLivesMatter
Reply to  Hmm
1 month ago

Can you tell us exactly what you heard, when you heard it (dates and times), and where were you when you heard it? Are you a current athlete, former athlete, or a parent? What specific things did her bosses admit to being inappropriate and discriminatory? When did they admit this? Was this written down or said verbally?

Please let us know, we really want to have as much information as possible.

#AthleteLivesMatter

Hmmm
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

I have spoken to the attorneys. You are not looking for information. You are trying to defend Teri. You have not won the crowd over.
If this ends up in a court room you will hear my story and many others.

Peaty55Paris
Reply to  Hmmm
1 month ago

“We” want to hear the information, no you just want to twist the words into an obscure paragraph defending Teri.

Chlorinetherapy
1 month ago

Reality is her gender probably worked in her favour. A male coach may have been called out much sooner.

daimo
Reply to  Chlorinetherapy
1 month ago

Historical examples would suggest otherwise.

Ferb
Reply to  daimo
1 month ago

Really? How long did Teri get away with this behavior (answer: decades)? How long did Jeremy Kipp get away with it at USC (answer: <2 seasons)? How long did Coley Stickels get away with it at Alabama (answer: <2seasons)?

daimo
Reply to  Ferb
1 month ago

Missing my point. I was saying that proportionally, female coaches have a higher rate of historically being accused of being abusive than male coaches. And this is true across sports.

Hmm
Reply to  Chlorinetherapy
1 month ago

Funny you should say that. Jenny actually said to me at one point that Teri was the female leader in the sport as a way to justify her behavior.

Time For Barta To Go
1 month ago

And the monetary settlement negotiations continue – simply now moved into the media.

The attorney predictably launches the gender bias defense. The client/accused remains mum throughout. The investigation moves like a sun dial. The aggrieved parties (the athletes) get zero true vindication, sadly.

Months from now some sort of tepid one-paragraph statement from Cal, announcing a “change in leadership”.
(hello, USC)

Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Steve Nolan
1 month ago

Dang, I wrote this earlier but it got eated by the CMS. Trying again!

“Let’s say that’s true because I don’t know,” Newkirk said. “Let’s say that’s true. Let’s say that Teri McKeever on this one day said it’s stupid and selfish. Why are we assuming that was an inappropriate thing to say. Are we psychologists? Do we understand how we’re supposed to respond to people who may think about or may consider committing suicide. How are we responding to this thing? And let’s say she did say it. Let’s say it’s the one day that she was just having a bad damn day and she said this is selfish, it is selfish and it’s stupid for you to do that. And

… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve Nolan
daimo
1 month ago

One thing that certainly supports the argument of gender bias is how quick everyone in the comment section here is to reject the “innocent until proven guilty” clause within our culture when it comes to women coaches, and Coach Teri, specifically. Did anyone here actually stop and ask “was that actually what she said?” or “was there any context to those supposed statements?” If you didn’t stop and consider this – at the very least consider the possibility – I’d like to introduce you to your implicit bias.

#AthleteLivesMatter
Reply to  daimo
1 month ago

Great post! We need to maintain innocent until proven guilty.

Hmm
Reply to  #AthleteLivesMatter
1 month ago

That means you have to question Teri too not just the athletes…..

daimo
Reply to  Hmm
1 month ago

well, yeah…..

SwimMom
Reply to  daimo
1 month ago

So we are supposed to believe the athletes are lying?

daimo
Reply to  SwimMom
1 month ago

We’re supposed to do a responsible inquiry into accusations in order to try and determine where, if any, wrong doing was done. Not jump to conclusions that are fueled by a one-sided narrative and, as I’ve said, our conceptions and biases about what (female) coaches should and should not be like.

Last edited 1 month ago by daimo
daimo
Reply to  SwimMom
1 month ago

What we’re supposed to do is have an appropriate inquiry into any allegations of wrong doing in order to determine what may have happened, and not base decisions on solely a one-sided narrative that gives further voice to any preconceptions and biases about how and what (female) coaches should do or say.

daimo
Reply to  daimo
1 month ago

Sorry for the double post, SS’s vetting process was taking too long.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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