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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Accusations of U.S. Tennis Minimizing Sexual Abuse and Attempting to Silence Pam Shriver

In response to claims that one of its top attorneys sought to cover up sexual assault, the United States Tennis Association is telling abuse victim and 22-time Grand Slam winner Pam Shriver to tread carefully.

On Monday, former college player Stevie Gould filed a complaint with the U.S. Centre for Safesport against Staciellen Mischel, the USTA’s deputy chief legal officer and the top lawyer for the USTA Foundation, for her actions in his case and another involving a predatory tennis coach. Gould successfully sued the USTA in 2020 for its failure to protect children playing tennis in California from a known sexual predator now serving a 255-year prison sentence.

According to the Safesport complaint, Mischel cautioned Shriver to “be careful” with her public pronouncements about sexual assault in tennis as they went from a charity dinner to her car in the spring of 2022.

Gould said in his accusation that nine years before he was abused by his coach, Mischel had taken a similar method. Mischel asked the head of the Northern California USTA chapter in 2014 to keep quiet about a police investigation into a notable tennis coach called Normandie Burgos and Burgos’ subsequent ban from USTA activities. The next year, Burgos began his abuse of Gould, which led to his conviction on many charges of molestation.

Last month, USTA spokesperson Chris Widmaier claimed that the organisation would never try to silence Shriver or anybody else who has experienced harassment for speaking out. Mischel has been denied an interview request by his employer.

Mischel testified in a deposition that she privately warned Shriver to stay away from Robert Allard, a top lawyer for plaintiffs in cases of sexual abuse in sports, because she was not “a nice person.” Mischel was acting in her capacity as a lawyer for the USTA, since Shriver had previously done fundraising work on behalf of the USTA.

For reasons including “protecting minors,” “avoiding re-victimization,” and “not interfering with an ongoing investigation by law enforcement,” Widmaier said in a statement released on Wednesday that police investigating Burgos in 2014 requested “that this sensitive matter be treated confidentially.” We followed protocol, informed law enforcement swiftly, and assisted them in their investigation. We are certain that Ms. Mischel has always done what was right and within the law.

Since going public with her personal tale of abuse last year, Shriver has been an ally of sexual assault survivors in the tennis community. Shriver stated in a pre-trial deposition that Mischel approached her during a USTA fundraiser event in California last year to discuss her participation in the matter involving the USTA and Kylie McKenzie, a once-promising junior.

An awkward conflict has arisen between the US Tennis Association (USTA) and one of the most decorated players in American influences tennis history, a prominent television a commentator on ESPN and the Tennis Channel, which is and a figure who has served as a high-profile volunteer for the organisation because of a conversation between Mischel and Shriver.

Lawyers for the USTA attempted to serve Shriver with a subpoena for further questioning in the days following the U.S. Open, after she testified on McKenzie’s behalf during the tournament. Shriver, unwilling to face further hostile questioning, stayed close to home until the deadline for further testimony passed.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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