Sarah Hirshland

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USOPC condemns systemic inequality, sets athlete town hall

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The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee will hold an athlete town hall on Friday, CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a letter to Team USA athletes, condemning “systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States.”

The town hall will be a forum for athletes to discuss how they’ve been impacted personally, to listen, to learn and to support each other, Hirshland wrote in a letter sent Monday night. This conversation will be facilitated by athletes and available to athletes.

“We are reading and hearing the messages you, and so many citizens of this nation, are sharing and we understand you are struggling with anger, frustration and uncertainty,” Hirshland wrote. “As Team USA athletes, you represent a total diversity of race, gender, geography and perspective. You, and all you represent, continue to be a powerful force for good.”

Many national governing bodies made statements condemning racism and seeking change, including those for major Summer Olympic sports of gymnastics, swimming and track and field.

“We can see that apathy and indifference are not solutions,” Hirshland wrote. “The USOPC stands with those who demand equality and we want to work in pursuit of that goal. We must do everything in our power to ensure equality promised is equality achieved. We are committed to providing opportunities for our community to engage, to learn, and connect to resources for them to become advocates and take action.”

The full text of the letter:

Dear Team USA athletes –
Like so many of you, I have watched the events of the past week unfold with a deep sense of despair and helplessness – questioning what I can do, what we in the Olympic and Paralympic community can do, and what all of us in our local communities can do, to bring forth honest conversation and enact necessary change.
We absolutely condemn the systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States. It has no place in ours or any other community. It is clear there are no forces as ugly, damaging and demeaning as racism and marginalization practiced by some of those in positions of authority. It played out in Minneapolis in the most tragic and unconscionable way imaginable. It is being felt intensely across the United States day after day.
We are reading and hearing the messages you, and so many citizens of this nation, are sharing and we understand you are struggling with anger, frustration and uncertainty.
As Team USA athletes, you represent a total diversity of race, gender, geography and perspective. You, and all you represent, continue to be a powerful force for good.
In this moment, when you might otherwise be training and competing together, many of you are still isolated at home. Conversations had on the track or pool deck, or in social settings, aren’t happening as they would normally, and this only adds to the frustration.
We’ve heard directly from you how important community and comradery are to Team USA athletes. That’s why, on Friday we will convene and support an athlete town hall where you can openly discuss how you have been impacted personally, listen to each other, learn from each other, and support each other. This conversation will be facilitated by athletes and available to athletes. Registration information will be sent soon. This discussion cannot resolve these issues but it is essential to progress.
We can see that apathy and indifference are not solutions. The USOPC stands with those who demand equality and we want to work in pursuit of that goal. We must do everything in our power to ensure equality promised is equality achieved. We are committed to providing opportunities for our community to engage, to learn, and connect to resources for them to become advocates and take action.
We’ve long celebrated the great power of sport as a way to unify nations and people in conflict. Today, and as we go forward, we believe unity among teammates, friends and colleagues can start to help heal our own.
Sarah Hirshland
CEO, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee

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New USOC CEO calls for another shakeup at USA Gymnastics

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DENVER (AP) — Not a month into her new job as CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland has seen enough from USA Gymnastics.

She’s calling for yet another shake-up in the federation’s leadership as it tries to remake itself in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal.

Hirshland sent out a statement Friday night calling for changes in the USA Gymnastics leadership, only hours after the federation awkwardly fired the coach it had hired only three days earlier as its elite program coordinator.

The coach, Mary Lee Tracy, was an early supporter of Nassar when allegations against him began to surface. Then, without permission this week, Tracy reached out to one of her fiercest critics, gold medalist Aly Raisman, who is suing USAG.

“As we close the day, I’m afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment,” Hirshland said. “Under the circumstances, we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership.”

She said the USOC would be reaching out to the USAG board over the weekend to discuss changes.

That likely spells trouble for Kerry Perry, who took over for Steve Penny as president of USA Gymnastics in November 2017.

Perry has made very few public statements, and has had trouble gathering support in the gymnastics community, since taking over as part of a USOC-directed turnover of the federation’s board and senior management.

USAG officials did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment.

Two weekends ago at national championships, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, a Nassar abuse victim herself, withheld judgment on the path USA Gymnastics has taken, saying “nobody can know until Kerry Perry speaks up. It’s kind of hard.”

Perry did speak up later that weekend, saying all but a few of the 70 recommendations suggested by an independent review of the federation’s actions had been implemented.

Much of that progress has been overshadowed by a steady stream of new allegations against Nassar and missteps by USA Gymnastics.

Tracy’s hiring certainly had the look of an unforced error.

She was on record as having supported Nassar in 2016, when allegations began surfacing.

As soon as Tracy was hired, Raisman, who has emerged as one of USA Gymnastics’ most vocal critics, called it “a slap in the face for survivors, and further proof that nothing at USAG has changed.”

Shortly after that, Tracy reached out to Raisman to apologize and talk about the future.

But USAG didn’t approve of that, and released a statement Friday afternoon saying Tracy had inappropriately contacted the gymnast, and had to ask for Tracy’s resignation.

The call by Hirshland comes as the USOC itself is under the microscope for its own handling of sex-abuse allegations.

She took over for Scott Blackmun, who resigned as CEO in February due to health problems, while calls for his ouster were increasing for what critics said was the USOC’s own slow reaction and unwillingness to take responsibility for abuse in Olympic sports.

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Sarah Hirshland is first woman named U.S. Olympic Committee CEO

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The U.S. Olympic Committee named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, the first woman to hold the permanent role after 11 men dating to 1950.

Hirshland, the chief commercial officer for the United States Golf Association, takes over during what she called “a critical moment in time” in its history.

The USOC and multiple national governing bodies for Olympic sports are dealing with sexual-abuse scandals, notably Larry Nassar‘s crimes against gymnasts.

“I also recognize the challenges ahead as we navigate this critical moment in the USOC’s history,” Hirshland said in a press release. “We must protect, support and empower athletes, young and old, elite and beginner. Olympic and Paralympic sport in the United States must be a shining example, able to provide athletes with the benefits of participation in an environment free from abuse of any kind. The USOC has made great strides in this area, and I look forward to carrying on that critically important work.

Hirshland said she took the job because it’s “an opportunity to take on a challenge.”

“As a female leader in the world of sport, I understand the importance of creating cultural change,” she said.

Hirshland has been with the USGA since 2011. Before that, she was senior vice president for strategic business development at Wasserman Media Group, headed by Casey Wasserman, the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic leader.

The previous USOC CEO, Scott Blackmun, resigned in February, citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal. Blackmun had been CEO since January 2010.

Susanne Lyons, a USOC board member, was acting CEO the last four months during the search for Blackmun’s successor. Lyons and Stephanie Streeter were the only women to be USOC CEO, but both were in acting roles as searches went on to find full-time replacements.

The USOC’s work ahead also includes planning for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics (the first hosted by the U.S. since the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games) and potentially bidding for the 2030 Winter Games with Denver, Reno-Tahoe or Salt Lake City.

ALL-TIME USOC EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS
1. Lyman Bingham (1950-November 1965)
2. Arthur G. Lentz (November 1965-February 1973; leave of absence June-December, 1968)
3. Everett Barnes (Acting Executive Director, June-December, 1968)
4. Don Miller (February 1973-February 1985)
5. George D. Miller (February 1985-August 1987)
6. Baaron B. Pittenger (Acting Executive Director, October-December 1987; Executive Director, January 1988-July 1990)
7. Harvey W. Schiller (January 1988; January 1990-October 1994)
8. John Krimsky Jr. (Interim Executive Director, October 1994-September 1995)
9. Richard D. Schultz (September 1995-February 2000)
10. Norman Blake (February 2000-November 2000)
11. Scott Blackmun (Acting Chief Executive Officer, November 2000-October 2001)
12. Lloyd Ward (October 2001-March 2003)
13. Jim Scherr (Acting Chief Executive Officer, March 2003-April 2005; Chief Executive Officer, April 2005-March 2009)
14. Stephanie A. Streeter (Acting Chief Executive Officer, March-December 2009)
15. Scott Blackmun (January 2010-February 2018)
16. Susanne Lyons (Acting Chief Executive Officer, February-August 2018)
17. Sarah Hirshland (August 2018-)

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