The United States Center for SafeSport (SafeSport) oversees allegations of misconduct and abuse in the Olympic sports movement and prohibits the dangerous practice of hazing.
What Is Hazing?
According to SafeSport, hazing is “any conduct that subjects another person—physically, mentally, emotionally or psychologically—to anything that may endanger, abuse, humiliate, degrade or intimidate the person as a condition of joining or being socially accepted by a group, team or organization.”
Hazing includes but is not limited to:
- Physically restricting a person’s movement
- Forcing consumption of alcohol or drugs
- Requiring actions that are designed to embarrass or humiliate
- Excessive “training” requirements that are not required of everyone and that serve no reasonable training purpose
- Having personal items stolen from changing areas
- Excessive screaming or yelling that is not related to reasonable coaching
- Withholding food or water
- Sleep deprivation
- Being transported to and left in an unfamiliar location
- Being forced to perform sexual activity
The Dangers of Hazing
Hazing may negatively impact:
The Person Being Hazed
If you are hazed, you could suffer physical injuries, emotional and mental instability, post-traumatic stress disorder, a decline in your athletic performance, relationship problems with teammates, family, and friends, and other serious consequences.
The Entire Team or Organization
The team could suffer damage to its reputation, loss of recognition, and/or the inability to compete. The team members may also be forced to pay damages for the harm their hazing caused.
What Happens if Hazing Occurs?
If you have been hazed, you may have the right to pursue a resolution by reporting the incident(s) to SafeSport. Once you make a report, SafeSport may:
Do an Intake
Three things will happen during intake.
First, SafeSport will seek to answer two questions: (1) Is the alleged hazing covered by the SafeSport Code?; and (2) Is the person who allegedly committed the hazing a participant within the U.S. Olympic or Paralympic Movement?
Next, if the answer to both questions is yes, then SafeSport will consider whether it has jurisdiction. SafeSport has exclusive jurisdiction in cases of sexual hazing and discretionary jurisdiction in physical and emotional hazing cases.
Finally, assuming SafeSport has jurisdiction, SafeSport will gather preliminary information and impose temporary safety measures, if necessary. Then, one of three things will happen: (1) the case may be resolved informally; (2) the case may be closed because there is insufficient information to continue; or (3) the case may be referred for formal resolution.
If SafeSport refers your case for formal resolution, then an investigator will be assigned to your case. The investigator will gather evidence and interview witnesses before preparing a formal investigation report.
Resolve the Matter
SafeSport will consider the formal investigation report and issue a Notice of Decision. If the Notice of Decision contains sanctions, then the person being sanctioned may accept the decision or request arbitration. The decision is final unless arbitration is requested. If arbitration is requested, SafeSport and the respondent accused of hazing will present their cases to an independent arbitrator who will make a final and binding decision.
Hazers face severe sanctions, including:
- A written warning that the Code was violated and that more significant sanctions will be issued for any other violations
- Probation for a set amount of time during which any further violations will result in additional sanctions
- Suspension or other eligibility restrictions for a specified amount of time
- Ineligibility to participate until further notice
- Permanent ineligibility to participate
- Other sanctions, including no-contact orders or training requirements
Additionally, hazing may lead to criminal charges if a criminal law was violated, personal injury lawsuits if a civil law was violated, or school disciplinary proceedings if a school rule was violated.
Contact a Sports Law Attorney After a Hazing Incident
You don’t have to suffer hazing to be a competitive athlete. Instead, you deserve to train and compete in your sport without the physical and emotional impacts of hazing, and the person doing the hazing deserves to be held accountable for any hazing they commit.
Please contact us online or call us directly at +1-207-747-5899 to schedule your free consultation. Our firm is devoted to the very specific practice of sports law and has represented athletes from all corners of the United States. We are dedicated advocates for athletes and will work diligently to protect your athletic career and professional reputation. Don't hesitate. Contact us today.