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Top US sports leaders look at ways to address sexual misconduct

Published:Saturday | December 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Golden State Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts.

OAKLAND, California: (AP):

Top leaders from the major professional sports leagues and individual franchises along with high-profile former athletes have begun looking at ways to avoid the kinds of sexual misconduct scandals that have rocked the world of politics and the entertainment industry. And lately, sports, too.

The issue came up in discussions earlier this month during the first meeting of the Anti-Defamation League's new Sports Leadership Council, which is chaired by Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred attended, joined by NCAA President Mark Emmert among others such as Big East Commissioner and former WNBA President Val Ackerman, various pro sports owners and team presidents. Tennis star Venus Williams is taking part, while civil rights activists, women's advocates and sports agents are in the group as well.

The leadership council briefly discussed the topic of sexual misconduct as part of its larger agenda during its first meeting in New York but has yet to identify any specific initiatives. Scott stressed the goal of the group is to be proactive on any hot-button topics, such as sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, given recent firings and lawsuits filed around the country.


Real issue


"It did come up, and it has been a real issue," Scott said. "It's been an area of focus in sports generally for young male athletes to be role models."

Recent weeks have seen major misconduct allegations emerging in sports. Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk is among three NFL Network analysts suspended after a woman who worked as a wardrobe stylist at the network accused them in a lawsuit of sexual misconduct. That came after Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon was sued for sexual harassment by a woman who worked for him at his sports marketing firm. Moon denied the allegations again on Thursday in a radio interview.

Last Sunday, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced that he would sell the team while he is under investigation for sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. The NFL plans to hire an outside counsel to investigate the allegations.

Scott realises the importance of discussing cases of sexual misconduct.

"I can just speak for my own experience at the Pac-12 and throughout college sports, there's been a real embrace of a White House campaign called 'It's on Us' and a focus," Scott said. "Stanford's done some things here locally, too, from some PSAs to focus on awareness and the importance of everyone having the responsibility to be upstanders not bystanders, that it's on everyone to be aware of potential sexual harassment and misconduct.

It's been an important area of focus in college sports. It's certainly on the agenda and on the list of issues that sports is confronting."

Golden State Warriors President and COO Rick Welts, who participated in the council's two-hour initial session by phone, just addressed sexual misconduct in a meeting with his small group of top executives and another with all of the franchise's management leaders.

"You raise it as an issue that it creates a natural opportunity to be able to talk about it again," Welts said. "We have our regular harassment training. It's not a new subject, but it's certainly got a new focus right now. It's an opportunity to just kind of reaffirm the things that we want the organisation to stand for and we're using it as an opportunity to do that. It was definitely a conversation."