The Associated Press Sports Editors organization has recommended that its members refrain from covering USA Wrestling events after the federation said it will now require journalists to undergo a background check in order to cover its events.
APSE President Jeff Rosen, sports editor of The Kansas City Star, said in an email Tuesday that the new policy “while probably well-intentioned, is problematic on multiple levels.”
“APSE applauds the effort to protect the safety of USA Wrestling athletes, but making journalists qualify for a membership and take a course in how to identify abuse and bullying is misguided,” Rosen wrote. “The lack of specificity on background checks, including the extent and areas of the checks, and the disposal of information and indemnification of the media is both alarming and dangerous.”
The federation said the new requirements — which will also include a mandatory hour-long U.S. Center for Safe Sports online video— are designed to increase safety in the sport.
USA Wrestling said the online video and background check, which had been long been required of national staff, coaches, referees, medical personnel and other officials, is part of an effort to protect both underage and adult athletes from any form of abuse. It is believed to be the first such requirements of its kind for a governing body in the U.S.
USA Wrestling spokesman Gary Abbott said the organization was looking forward to answering questions about the new policy.
“We feel a boycott of USA Wrestling by a media organization at this time is a bit harsh, especially before we have had any dialogue on this. However, we stand resolute in pursuing this and will continue to advocate for others to adopt such a policy,” Abbott said. “The goal for everybody involved should be the safety of all athletes, and we welcome a healthy dialogue on this topic.”
The wrestling federation policy statement Monday did not mention Larry Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics national team doctor now in prison for molesting women and girls and for possessing child pornography. But it did say that the Colorado-based federation “will continue to inform adults affiliated with USA Wrestling about their responsibilities for mandatory reporting of suspected abuse.”
In addition to senior-level tournaments, USA Wrestling also governs boys’ events for six divisions of athletes under the age of 18. The world championships, Olympics and other international events would not be subject to these restrictions. Those meets are governed by United World Wrestling.