New York | USTA being sued over failure to act 

The USTA is reportedly being sued by a victim of sexual abuse for its handling of a disturbing case in which a former coach, Normandie Burgos, who is currently serving a prison sentence, was convicted of child molestation in May 2019.

We’re not going to comment on specific litigation, but we are quite confident that we acted in the appropriate manner. Chris Widmaier, USTA spokesman

According to the New York Times, The USTA’s failure to take action over reports on the 56-year-old former prominent coach, who ran a highly praised tennis program at a San Francisco Bay Area high school, is now the subject of the lawsuit.

Burgos was arrested for a second time on charges of abusing one of his players in 2014, but was allowed to continue coaching by the USTA for another three years.

In May 2019, Burgos was sentenced to 255 years in prison for 60 counts of child molestation, after another abused player, Stevie Gould, working secretly with police and recorded him admitting to having sex with a minor.

According to the transcripts from the trial, a player revealed in 2010 that Burgos had put a sleeping mask over his head and eyes, supposedly to help him relax, before sexually assaulting him, but jurors could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared.

Burgos, a gay man who had accused his critics of homophobia, became emboldened, doubling down on his efforts to become one of the region’s leading figures in youth tennis.

There is no public record of the USTA having taken any action against Burgos and, despite being a convicted sex offender, he is not listed in the database of the US Center for SafeSport, an independent body created to track abusive coaches, trainers and others with access to athletes.

Alex Rodriguez, the mother of a player Burgos had coached who was not abused, contended that the USTA ‘dropped the ball, because they made it appear like this was a safe place for the kids to go.

“Shouldn’t there have been more oversight from the USTA about him interacting with children?” she asked.

Earlier, in 2006, Burgos was fired by one school, but the USTA reportedly continued to give him travel grants and did not take any action against him, while many victims apparently reported him to the US governing body, but nothing was done.

Gould told the New York Times that the USTA should have taken action against Burgos long before he was jailed.

The newspaper reported there is no public record of the USTA initiating any disciplinary proceedings or action against the coach, despite the numerous allegations of sexual abuse.

In a statement to the New York Times, Chris Widmaier, a spokesperson for the USTA, said: “We’re not going to comment on specific litigation, but we are quite confident that we acted in the appropriate manner.”

The lawsuit bares similarities to a separate legal action being taken by a group of gymnasts, who were abused by disgraced former doctor Larry Nassar, against USA Gymnastics.

Back in September 2014, at a meeting in Chicago, the USTA asserted that it could police itself when it came to abuse cases after the head of the United States Olympic Committee noted that a new initiative to protect athletes from abusers had the support from every sport’s governing body other than the United States Tennis Association.

According to the minutes of the meeting, Gordon Smith, the USTA’s Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer at the time, explained that he objected to a ‘single mandatory national entity’ overseeing abuse cases across federations and added that a sport should be able to ‘opt out of the centralised structure’ if it could police itself.

It seems that the USTA did not police itself and it is hoped that the USOC, which protects athletes from abusers, will now look into the matter.


The LTA has partnered with Sport England to pilot a cutting edge safeguarding awareness campaign aimed at clubs, coaches, parents and players

© LTA.org.uk

This case has echoes of a similar one in the UK, which prompted extensive safeguarding measures to be put into place by the LTA, after it had failed for five years to act on repeated warnings about the behaviour of Daniel Sanders, a registered coach.

Sanders retained his job as the head coach at the Wrexham Tennis Centre, despite complaints by other coaches, concerned parents and players about his inappropriately sexualised and bullying behaviour, until he was arrested and charged in 2017.

In a review chaired by Christopher Quinlan QC, the LTA’s responses to the complaints were described as inadequate and its safeguarding were subsequently enhanced.

“With its new processes, policies and resources the LTA safeguarding team is – in our judgment – much better placed to deal with such cases,” the report concluded.

Scott Lloyd, the LTA Chief Executive appointed in January 2018, responded to the report at the time by apologising for the failures and promised to ‘redouble our efforts to raise safeguarding standards in tennis’.

“The LTA is committed to having the best safeguarding procedures possible at every level of the game but, in this case, the actions taken were clearly not enough,” he said. “I am concerned that opportunities to act were missed and we apologise sincerely to all those affected.

“We will ensure the LTA, Tennis Wales and Wrexham Tennis Centre take all necessary action required to implement the review recommendations in full.”

There are now new safeguarding standards at LTA Registered Venues, with support and guidance as well as how to report a concern provided on lta.org.uk.

From 1 October 2020 it will become mandatory for venues applying to register with the LTA to ensure all Level 2-5 coaches operating at their venue are LTA Accredited.

This means coaches will have completed the appropriate safeguarding and first aid training and undergone DBS checks.

As a result, players that choose an LTA registered venue will know that the activity delivered by a Level 2-5 coach is conducted by an individual who is trained in safeguarding, has the appropriate qualifications and is insured.

The LTA has since partnered with Sport England to pilot a cutting edge safeguarding awareness campaign aimed at clubs, coaches, parents and players.

The website www.safetoplaytennis.co.uk offers additional information and guidance.





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