Statement for the Senate Record by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
“SAFESPORT (Stopping Abuse From Entering Sports, Promoting Oversight, Responsibility And Transparency) Act Of 2019”
November 13, 2019
Mr. President, this week I introduced S. 2838 with Senators Ernst, Blackburn, Sullivan, Murkowski, and Perdue. This bill, which we’ve titled the SAFESPORT Act of 2019, includes funding accountability, anti-retaliation protection, child abuse reporting, and other reform measures.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Commerce Committee members who lead the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Ted Stevens Act, along with Commerce Committee Chairman Wicker, for including so much of my SAFESPORT Act as an amendment to a larger package that they developed. That measure is S. 2330, the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019, sponsored by Senators Moran and Blumenthal.
Senators Moran and Blumenthal worked closely with me to secure the inclusion of multiple provisions of my SAFESPORT Act in their bill, which cleared the Commerce Committee this morning with unanimous bipartisan support. Every one of these provisions is designed to ensure that the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is tasked by Congress with investigating abuse of athletes in amateur sports, continues on its current track of excellence. I extend my sincere appreciation to both subcommittee leaders for their hard work on S. 2330 and for collaborating with me to improve their bipartisan bill.
First, the SAFESPORT Act would enhance child abuse reporting, by ensuring that the Center for SafeSport is subject to the same mandatory reporting requirements as other professionals who work with children, under the Federal Victims of Child Abuse Act. By law, this Center is tasked with receiving and investigating complaints of sexual abuse in amateur sports, which is why its personnel should have to report suspected crimes against children to the authorities.
Second, this bill ensures that the Center for SafeSport, a private organization that already receives millions annually in revenue from the Olympic community (and which would receive $20 million annually, at the direction of Congress, if the Moran-Blumenthal bill is enacted), is subject to an annual audit by an independent auditor.
Such an audit is highly recommended by charity watchdog groups for the highest functioning nonprofit organizations. It’s also a standard requirement for almost any nonprofit charitable organization receiving Federal grant awards of more than $750,000 annually. My legislation also calls for the Center for SafeSport to implement any corrective actions recommended by the auditor each year, or explain why it disagrees with the recommendations.
Third, this legislation subjects the Center for SafeSport to certain transparency requirements, ensuring, for example, that this organization reports to Congress annually with a detailed account of its activities, any changes in its financial standing, and a corrective action plan to implement auditor recommendations, if any. We’re entitled to know how many complaints the organization investigates and resolves using the millions of dollars it receives from the U.S. Olympic community each year. Such information would be made available to the public, under the SAFESPORT Act.
The Commerce Committee included all of these accountability, transparency, and child abuse reporting provisions as well as the anti-retaliation language of my SAFESPORT Act in the package it approved today. That anti-retaliation language, on which I collaborated with Senator Peters, protects whistleblowers who come forward and report abuses in amateur sports. I thank Senator Peters for his collaboration on that language. I am delighted we made this progress and look forward to working with the Committee to ensure it is enacted.
The only language that the Committee did not accept, due to jurisdictional concerns raised by Senators Blumenthal and Moran, was the grant accountability language in the SAFESPORT Act. One section of my bill, which bars nonprofits receiving Justice Department grants from stashing funds in offshore accounts for tax avoidance purposes, among other requirements, has cleared the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support on multiple occasions. Chairman Graham approved its inclusion in the Commerce package, and Ranking Member Feinstein has cosponsored similar language on multiple occasions. So I am disappointed that these reforms were omitted from S. 2330 today. Senators Blackburn and Sullivan, who joined with me in seeking the inclusion of that grant accountability language in that Commerce Committee package today, have called for adding it to S. 2330 before its floor consideration.
I look forward to working with the leaders of the Commerce Committee to achieve that goal. The only other key provision of my SAFESPORT Act that was not included in S. 2330 would enable the Attorney General to seek the removal of officers and directors of the Center for SafeSport, in the event these individuals engage in serious misconduct or material violations of the Ted Stevens Act.
I urge my colleagues to join me in cosponsoring S. 2838, the SAFESPORT Act, which is so important to ensure that the organization tasked by Congress with protecting amateur athletes retains its current, high standard of excellence. I again thank Senator Peters as well as my cosponsors, particularly Senators Blackburn and Sullivan, for helping me negotiate for the inclusion of so many provisions of the SAFESPORT Act in the bipartisan measure that cleared the Commerce Committee. I also want to thank my committee staff, including Kolan Davis, Evelyn Fortier, Rachael Soloway and Dario Camacho for their hard work on this measure. Finally, I thank the organizations, such as Fairness, Dignity & Respect for Crime Victims & Survivors Project, which endorsed this legislation, as well as the Athletes Advisory Council, which worked with us on the anti-retaliation provisions.