According to a letter obtained by Southern California News Group, a prominent USA Badminton board member has recommended that the national governing body fire its CEO, Linda French.
The letter from board member Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic swimming champion, comes amid congressional investigations into whether French and other US badminton dealt with allegations of sexual abuse against a former US national team coach and another sexual abuse case is a young player as defined by the US Center for SafeSport guidelines.
Hogshead-Makar’s recommendation also comes a month after Alistair Casey, a US badminton employee who alerted the US Center for SafeSport to French and the NGB’s handling of the two sex abuse cases, was fired .
“I believe Linda should be terminated because under the overall circumstances I no longer have confidence that her actions are in the best interests of the sport,” wrote Hogshead-Makar, who was appointed to the USA Badminton Board of Directors in June 2020. Rather, it is about defending yourself to the detriment of the sport. She is not definitively acting on a plan that presumably should have been changed during the pandemic to focus on issues that ‘normal times’ don’t allow for.”
The US Center for SafeSport on November 4 temporarily curtailed France’s duties in sex abuse cases, according to SafeSport documents obtained by SCNG.
French did not respond to a request for comment.
Hogshead-Makar declined to discuss the details of the letter, citing confidentiality issues.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in an Oct. 1 letter, warned USA Badminton of “possible criminal violations amid allegations that it has attempted to hide allegations of child sex abuse and to obstruct an investigation by the US Center for SafeSport” into the two sexual abuse cases.
According to Grassley, USA Badminton “discouraged reporting of sexual misconduct, encouraged the destruction or withholding of evidence, challenged their legal obligations and refused to cooperate with SafeSport.”
Grassley said he informed the FBI of the allegations.
“As the Nassar case exemplifies, inaction can result in many more victims being harmed, which would be intolerable,” Grassley wrote, citing the Larry Nassar case in which US Gymnastics officials face allegations of sexual abuse having covered up against the former US Olympic and US national team doctor that enabled Nassar to sexually assault dozens if not more than 100 new victims.
A day later, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Sen. Roger F. Wicker (R-Mississippi), the chair and senior member of the Senate Communications, Science and Transportation Committee, wrote to USA Badminton that they had received allegations that USA Center for SafeSport “describes possible interference by senior U.S. badminton officials, including allegations that senior U.S. badminton officials on a number of occasions prevented organization employees from reporting possible sexual abuse of a minor to SafeSport.”
Hogshead-Makar, in her Dec. 1 letter to USA Badminton’s other board members, said that she received a letter from the House Energy and Trade Committee that said, “It was recently brought to our attention that officials from USA Badminton may have failed to report allegations of child sexual abuse, discouraged others from reporting these allegations, and may impede an investigation into these allegations being conducted by the US Center for SafeSport. If true, this is unacceptable, deeply concerning, and a violation of federal law.”
Jon Little, an attorney for USA Badminton and a prominent survivor advocate who has frequently clashed with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committees and NGBs over their handling of sexual abuse cases, responded to the House Committee that “the false allegations Not being reported in the United States Badminton is currently “under investigation” by the United States Center for Safe Sport, and in the last month, USA Badminton has filed over 1,000 pages of records including several privilege logs to the USA Center for Safe Sport and the Senate Committee on Commerce ; we would be happy to present the documents to your committee.”
Little was notified by the US Center for SafeSport on October 13 that he was under investigation.
According to a letter from the US Center for SafeSport, the allegations included that Little “was made aware of allegations of sexual misconduct and failed to timely report such allegations to appropriate authorities; discouraged reporting sexual misconduct; promoted the concealment and destruction of evidence on the subject; denied the need to comply with federal reporting requirements; refused to cooperate with the center’s investigation; and retaliated against a USA Badminton employee for reporting sexual misconduct to the center. It was further alleged that you engaged in abuse of procedure by failing to properly disclose the identities of applicants in communications with both the USOPC and the United States Congress.”
“The allegations are absolutely false,” Little said.
Little wrote in an Oct. 13 letter to Senate assistants: “Safe Sport’s complaint against me is part of a long-standing campaign by Safe Sport and its predecessors to silence the voices in sport, protect athletes in sport, and I will defend myself publicly. ”
The investigations by the US Center for SafeSport and Congress are focused on whether USA Badminton discouraged reporting and failed to timely report allegations that a former US national team coach killed a young foreign player while training in Southern California and another Rape of a young woman raped by another USA Badminton member, according to the US Center for SafeSport and USA Badminton documents. In the second case, the woman became pregnant and underwent an abortion, according to two people familiar with the case.
Allegations in both cases have been known to USA Badminton, including some board members, for years, according to USA Badminton, the US Center for SafeSport and congressional documents.
In their Oct. 2 letter to French, Cantwell and Wicker wrote to the US Center for SafeSport that allegations of interference against USA Badminton “were made in connection with SafeSport’s investigation into “allegations of child sexual abuse.” [by a USA Badminton coach] which were apparently known to an NGB official as early as 2014.’”
“This behavior is exactly the kind of retaliatory abuse of the process that Safe Sport routinely employs to protect medal and money producing coaches – in this case (the US national team coach),” Little wrote in the April 13 letter. October to Senate Assistants. “Safe Sport wishes to perpetuate the narrative that badminton failed to report (the coach of the US National Team) when in fact (the coach) was the subject of a complaint filed in 2009 by the former Athletes’ Ombudsmen and then again by USA Badminton was filed in June/July 2020. Badminton rightly assumed that any further complaints would be dismissed summarily and without any investigation by Safe Sport. This was the case for the August 2020 complaint as it was settled in less than three weeks.”
In an Oct. 5 email to French, Hogshead-Makar and USA Badminton chairman Ken Wong, Little wrote: “Bottom line, in June 2020 we talked about banning USA Badminton (the coach) and I think we need to do this now i know it will be expensive as he will probably fight but i think this guy will be a problem in the future if he hurts a kid in the future we would get civil sued the pants from us – but other than that, removing him is the right thing to do.”
Both cases were reported to USA Badminton on Aug. 12, Little said.
Officials at the US Center for SafeSport were unable to locate the alleged victim in the first case, which concluded Sept. 1, Little said. The second case closed Aug. 28, Little said. The center imposed no sanctions in either case, Little said.
“Linda did not understand SafeSport’s rules and made the mistake of believing that she did not need to report some incidents of sexual abuse to the US Center for SafeSport,” Hogshead-Makar wrote in the letter. “Following texts and a discussion with her, she reported them and both reports have been administratively closed. … But instead of cleaning up the mess her mistake caused, she became defensive and was no longer able to speak to Alistair, her sole employee.
“Linda raised a SafeSport issue/complaint in a federal case by not saying what is true: that when she heard about a coach harassing a badminton player, she didn’t feel she needed to report her. She eventually reported it, and SafeSport administratively closed those reports. In my opinion, it was a gullible mistake that wasn’t quickly rectified.”
In an interview with SCNG, Hogshead-Makar said: “In my opinion a mistake was made and my impression was that we cleaned it up.
“It was in no way like (USA) Gymnastics where they knew about (Nassar) and didn’t do anything about it.”
Hogshead-Makar also claims in the letter, “The 2022 budget was used to sack Alistair Casey. In my opinion, this “emergency meeting” (on the budget) was created to give Linda “cover” to fire Alistair. I have a feeling she wasn’t clear with us about her intentions regarding our meeting or why she fired Alistair.”
Casey said he was fired for reporting to the US Center for SafeSport.
“Absolutely,” he said. “If I hadn’t signed up for SafeSport, I would still be working there.”