What is the SafeSport Act?
Public Law 115-126, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 (the “SafeSport Act”), (sometimes referred to by Organization Members by its bill number, “S.534,”) serves two functions. It: 1) amends the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990; and 2) amends the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1978. In brief, the SafeSport Act:
extends the duty to report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours to certain adults who are authorized to interact with minor or amateur athletes at a facility under the jurisdiction of a national governing body or an applicable amateur sports organization. A “national governing body” means an amateur sports organization that is recognized by the United States Olympic Committee. The United States Soccer Federation, also known as “U.S. Soccer” or “USSF,” is the National Governing Body for soccer. An “amateur sports organization” under the SafeSport Act is a not-for-profit corporation, association, or other group organized in the United States that sponsors or arranges an amateur athletic competition across state lines or internationally. An individual who is required, but fails, to report suspected child sexual abuse is subject to criminal penalties. In other words, if you are an adult who volunteers or works in youth sports, you should report child abuse to law enforcement.
requires applicable amateur sports organizations to:
o Comply with the SafeSport Act’s reporting requirements and prohibit retaliation by the applicable amateur sports organization against any individual who makes a report;
o Establish reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between an amateur athlete who is a minor and an adult (who is not the minor’s legal guardian) at a facility under the jurisdiction of the applicable amateur sports organization; and
o Offer and provide consistent training to adult members in regular contact with minor amateur athletes and, subject to parental consent, to members who are minors, regarding prevention and reporting of child abuse.
A full copy of the SafeSport Act is available HERE.
Does the SafeSport Act Apply to My Organization?
Any U.S. organization that sponsors or arranges amateur athletic competition should review the SafeSport Act to determine if you are covered. In general, an organization will be covered if it is, among other things, an amateur sports organization sanctioned by U.S. Soccer under 36 U.S.C. § 220525 or if it participates in an interstate or international amateur athletic competition and whose membership includes any adult who is in regular contact with an amateur athlete who is a minor. (See 36 U.S.C. § 220530(b)).
Regardless of whether your organization constitutes an “applicable amateur sports organization” under the SafeSport Act, if you are an Organization Member of USSF, you are subject to USSF’s Bylaws and Policies, including its Athlete & Participant Safety Policy 212-3.
What is the U.S. Center for SafeSport?
The U.S. Center for SafeSport (the “Center”) is an independent 501(c)(3) organization that receives funding from the U.S. federal government, the USOC, the 50 NGBs (including USSF), as well as a number of third-party individuals and organizations.
Pursuant to USOC Policy, the U.S. Center for SafeSport maintains exclusive authority over: (a) actual or suspected sexual misconduct by USSF Covered Personnel (and those covered personnel of other NGBs), which includes National Team and Development Academy personnel, National Level referees, and USSF staff and board members; and (b) misconduct that is reasonably related to an underlying allegation of sexual misconduct by Covered Personnel.
Exclusive authority means: (y) only the Center will investigate and manage any related hearing involving sexual misconduct and (z) neither USSF, the USOC nor any Covered Personnel will conduct its own investigation or arbitration with respect to possible sexual misconduct.
In 2018, the SafeSport Act amended the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to codify this jurisdiction, authorizing the Center to “serve as the independent national safe sport organization and…exercise jurisdiction over the corporation, each national governing body, and each Paralympic sports organization with regard to safeguarding amateur athletes against abuse, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, in sports.”
The SafeSport Act further authorizes the Center to:
maintain an office for education and outreach that shall develop training, oversight practices, policies, and procedures to prevent the abuse, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, of amateur athletes participating in amateur athletic activities through national governing bodies and Paralympic sports organizations;
maintain an office for response and resolution that shall establish mechanisms that allow for the reporting, investigation, and resolution of alleged sexual abuse in violation of the Center’s policies and procedures; and
ensure that the mechanisms provide fair notice and an opportunity to be heard and protect the privacy and safety of complainants.
In addition to the USSF Integrity Hotline available HERE, reports may also be made to the Center for SafeSport, including on an anonymous basis, by visiting https://safesport.org and selecting the “Report a Concern” link, or by calling (720) 531-0340.
What is the SafeSport code?
The U.S. Center for SafeSport’s Response and Resolution Office (Office) has issued the SafeSport Code for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement (Code) and its appendices (collectively, the “Code”) pursuant to the Center’s authority under the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) Bylaws and Public Law 115-126, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Act of 2017 (the “SafeSport Act”). The Code’s purpose is to create and maintain a sport community where all persons who participate in sport programs and activities can work and learn together in an atmosphere free of all forms of emotional, physical and sexual misconduct. Please see U.S. Soccer’s Safe Soccer Framework, which incorporates the Code’s prohibitions, for more details.
If you would like to review a full copy of the SafeSport Code, the current version is available HERE.
Who are currently Covered Individuals subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Center for SafeSport?
For U.S. Soccer, Covered Individuals are defined as those athletes who directly register with U.S. Soccer (not including athletes who register through organization members or professional athletes playing with a professional league sanctioned by U.S. Soccer) and those who are appointed or authorized by U.S. Soccer to oversee those athletes; this would include coaches, administrators, medical personnel and the like. In addition, effective April 15, 2019, the U.S. Center for SafeSport has amended the SafeSport Code to extend its response & resolution jurisdiction to any individual deemed a “Participant” at the time of the alleged conduct. The SafeSport Code defines a “Participant” as “[a]ny individual who is seeking to be, currently is, or was at the time of the alleged Code violation:
A member or license holder of an NGB, LAO, or USOC;
An employee of an NGB, LAO, or USOC, and/or;
Within the governance or disciplinary jurisdiction of an NGB, LAO, or USOC.
Authorized, approved, or appointed by an NGB, LAO, or USOC to have regular contact with Minor Athletes.”
As a result, most U.S. Soccer-licensed referees and coaches will fall under this definition, as well as any individual who qualifies as a “Participant” by virtue of affiliation with a state association-member of U.S. Soccer.
Where do I go to get information about my organization’s requirements under the SafeSport Act and USSF Bylaws?
USSF’s Athlete & Participant Safety Policy 212-3 under the “Policies” tab on the homepage of this web-site, and you may also wish to review USSF’s Safe Soccer Framework Handbook. These documents are designed to help USSF Members put together a risk management program designed to comply with the SafeSport Act.
My club is an adult amateur club but we do allow some minors to play on our teams. Are we required to comply with USSF’s Athlete & Participant Safety Policy?
USSF’s Athlete & Participant Safety Policy 212-3 applies to Organization Members to the extent they work with amateur athletes. Any Organization Member that is an “Applicable Entity” under the SafeSport Act or otherwise has adult members who are in regular contact with amateur athletes who are minors must comply with all elements of the Athlete and Participant Safety Policy such as establishing reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between minor athletes and adults, offering consistent training regarding prevention and reporting of child abuse and prohibiting retaliation against any individua who makes a good faith report of suspected abuse.
Any other Organization Member that qualifies as an amateur sports organization (under 36 U.S.C. § 220501(b)(3)) but does not have adult participants who are in regular contact with amateur athletes who are minors must nonetheless maintain, as part of the risk management program required under Bylaw 212, an athlete and participant safety program that includes at least a Prohibited Conduct Policy consistent with Paragraph 1 of the Athlete and Participant Safety Policy.
The Policy is designed to help USSF Members put together a risk management program designed to comply with the SafeSport Act.