Sen. Cruz: SafeSport Faces Serious Challenges In Carrying Out Its Mission

March 20, 2024

Cruz also blasts Olympic commission report suggesting youth leagues should be micromanaged by virtue-signaling bureaucrats 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In his opening statement at today’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security hearing titled “Promoting a Safe Environment in U.S. Athletics,” Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) raised his concerns regarding the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission and the lack of transparency for victims and National Governing Bodies (NGB). Sen. Cruz also outlined his objections to the recent report released by the Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics and Paralympics, which made recommendations that would amount to a federal government takeover of the U.S. athletic structure including more government sports offices, new taxes and spending, and bringing youth athletics under the federal government’s purview.

Here are Sen. Cruz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“In 2017, in the aftermath of the USA Gymnastics scandal, Congress established the U.S. Center for SafeSport to ‘safeguard amateur athletes against abuse.’

“Few can forget Larry Nassar, the former gymnastics team physician, who committed heinous acts against innocent young women.

“Today, the Center must remain true to its mission by speedily investigating and adjudicating all such cases of physical and sexual abuse.

“I hope today’s conversation will recognize the important progress that the Center, National Governing Bodies (NGB), and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee have made in protecting athletes since Nassar’s crimes.

“But there are nonetheless serious challenges that we will discuss today. Recent public reports as well as testimony from athletes, advocates, and NGBs have raised questions as to whether the Center is successfully carrying out its mission.

“Hearing these concerns, I recently led an oversight letter to the Center with Chairwoman Cantwell as well as Senators Blackburn and Peters to request information regarding the Center’s processes and procedures.

“I’m pleased that the Center has complied with this Committee’s requests for information. But after reviewing the data, I have several concerns:

“First, I am concerned about the scope of the Center’s jurisdiction, particularly when it invokes its discretionary jurisdiction to take minor cases that could be handled by a national governing body. I’m worried that distracts from serious abuse cases.

“I’m also concerned by the percentage of cases the Center administratively closes. Based on a preliminary analysis by my staff, it appears the Center has administratively closed roughly four out of every five sexual misconduct cases where it found jurisdiction. Nearly half of those cases were closed because of a reluctant claimant. This creates doubt and ambiguity, particularly within NGBs, which are precluded by the Center from taking further action after a case has been administratively closed.

“Next, I’m concerned by how long cases remain open. According to our preliminary analysis, out of 940 open cases at the Center, more than one-quarter have been pending for more than a year.

“Finally, I’m concerned by the lack of transparency with NGBs, witnesses, and those who have come forward to expose wrongdoing. While I recognize the importance of confidentiality, I hope we can instill cooperation—not hostility—between the Center, NGBs, and USOPC to better protect athletes.

“As I conclude, I’d like to say a few brief words regarding the recent report released by the Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics and Paralympics, which was supposed to look at the overall effectiveness of the Olympic structure.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, this commission — which was a Democrat-led effort as several Republican-appointed commissioners were unable to participate — called for more government to address imaginary problems.

“To improve the Olympic structure, the Commission recommended creating new government sports offices, higher taxes, and more federal regulators—as well as regulating Little League.

“This government commission was suggesting not mission creep, but mission gallop.

“To give you a flavor of the report, the word “baseball” appears 17 times. ‘Diversity, equity, and inclusion?’ 170 times.

“If the goal is to have fewer kids participating in sports — and fewer parents volunteering to help — I can think of no more effective idea than having youth leagues micromanaged by virtue-signaling bureaucrats.

“By arguing for the centralization of the U.S. athletic structure, the Commission has done nothing less than propose a shift to the sports models of China and Russia.

“This is highly disturbing, particularly for U.S. taxpayers who funded this report, and it must be rejected.

“It is precisely the United States’ rejection of centralized government and the embrace of freedom and localism that has produced the greatest athletes in the world—athletes who have been able to pursue their dreams rather than have their athletic futures determined by a centralized regime.

“Team USA’s athletic success will continue if we reject the centralized government recommendations of the Commission.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. I hope we can have a productive discussion about the current problems within the Center and what can be done by the Center, NGBs, and USOPC to protect athletes from abuse.”