US Youth Soccer & Cal North Pay $8.2 Million to Settle the Sex-Abuse Lawsuit that a Coach Background Check Would Have Prevented.
If a comprehensive background check on youth soccer coaches had been mandatory, the youth soccer player would never have been sexually abused by her soccer coach.
U.S. Youth Soccer Association to Pay $8.2 Million to Settle Lawsuit Over Background Checks
U.S. Youth Soccer, the nation’s largest youth sports organization, just ended a massive lawsuit with an $8.2 million dollar settlement.
U.S. Youth Soccer has 3 million players, 55 state associations and 300,000 coaches plus over 600,000 volunteers and administrators, and just agreed to pay $6.5 million and Cal North, the state association in which the sexual abuse took place, will pay $1.7 million.
The $8.2 million lawsuit was over a youth soccer coach who had a conviction for domestic assault on his record before ever meeting the 12-year-old girl on his team. He sexually abused the player for months.
A comprehensive background check would stop this before it happened.
A comprehensive, third-party national background check would have picked up his record and disqualified him from being on the soccer pitch and ever even meeting that player.
Not mandating background checks for all youth soccer coaches was a huge mistake. We all want our children to be safe. No one wants this to happen again.
The question is: Is the problem fixed today?
Yes and No. It depends upon where your youth soccer player plays — if the organization requires background checks on coaches and sadly, even how comprehensive that background check is.
Editor’s recommendation: We suggest you make sure your player plays in an organization which requires comprehensive background checks performed by a reputable third-party. Let me explain. First, you need a recap. Working together, we can protect our players.
What is the backstory on this US Youth Soccer Lawsuit? What actually happened?
Emanuele Fabrizio was a youth soccer coach at US Youth Soccer Northern California’s West Valley Youth Soccer League.
Fabrizio sexually abused one of his players, a young 12-year old girl.
After being arrested in 2012 and charged by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Fabrizio pled guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for continuous sexual abuse of a child and lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14.
The young girl, who was obviously traumatized, at one point used scissors to carve the letter “M” on her stomach. The letter M was for “Manny,” her coach’s nickname.
Fabrizio was 37 years old when was sentenced and had worked as an engineer for PayPal in Silicon Valley.
Fabrizio would never have passed a coach background check.
Fabrizio was convicted of domestic violence before he sexually abused his player.
The players at West Valley Youth Soccer, who were usually from the West San Jose, Campbell, and portions of Saratoga, Los Gatos, and Cupertino areas, would have been protected from Fabrizio if the club, state association or national association had mandated a comprehensive background check. It is really that simple.
How did this ever happen?
The landscape of youth soccer has changed since Fabrizio sexually abused his player — but back in 2012, there were no SafeSport guidelines in place and the coach and player were allowed to spend extensive time together alone.
Fabrizio had gained the trust of his player and her family. The coach drove his player to and from a tournament alone in a car, the two went on walks alone together and, according to court documents, he engaged in “grooming behavior” with her.
The sexually abuse started in May 2011 and lasted until March 2012 when the player’s father called the police after months of rumors of inappropriate behavior.
According to reports, Fabrizio had sex with the girl twice, kissed her at least 20 times and engaged in other sexual activity multiple times. Reports also included allegations that the youth soccer coach had child pornography of his player and had engaged in multiple inappropriate sexual conversations with her.
More Details on the California Court of Appeal Doe v. United States Youth Soccer Association, Inc.
Is this the only time a youth soccer coach has sexually abused a youth soccer player or engaged in inappropriate actions?
Unfortunately, no. Even a State Association Hall of Fame coach has been found to have molested youth soccer players.
In 2009, Thomas Anderson, a member of the Cal North Hall of Fame was charged with multiple felony child molestation offenses arising from incidents with two 11-year-old boys.
Why was US Youth Soccer sued?
Although US Youth Soccer’s by-laws required, even back then, that it’s 55 State Associations screen coaches for criminal convictions, the national association allowed the information to be collected by means of a “voluntary disclosure” form. US Youth Soccer did not mandate criminal background checks by a third party.
Fabrizio simply failed to mention his 2006 conviction for domestic violence and battery against his wife. The really sad part is that Fabrizio did reportedly authorize the youth soccer league to check his record, but no background check was done at that time.
The question is did US Youth Soccer have a duty to do a better job of protecting the player from Fabrizio’s criminal conduct? The court said yes.
- USYS originally had argued that it did not have a responsibility to mandate that it’s 55 States perform background checks on all coaches. The California Appellate Court disagreed.
- USYS acknowledged that the domestic violence conviction would have disqualified Fabrizio.
- US Youth Soccer was recognized for being proactive for decades. It had launched the KidSafe Program in the mid-1990s which informed people that: “Pedophiles are drawn to places where there are children. All youth sports, including youth soccer, are such places.”
This is the horrendous fact published by US Youth Soccer in a KidSafe Pamphlet:
“One out of every 4 girls and one out of every 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18,” USYF KidSafe
The problem is clear. US Youth Soccer left the responsibility how to make sure the players were protected on a State level.
Understandably, the parents filed an action for negligence and willful misconduct against defendants United States Youth Soccer Association, Inc. (US Youth), California Youth Soccer Association, Inc. (Cal North), and West Valley Youth Soccer League (West Valley.)
The court found U.S. Youth Soccer was aware of incidents of physical and sexual abuse of its members by coaches “at a steady yearly rate of between 2 and 5 per year” — Now is the time for this to absolutely end.
This lawsuit has been settled but the moral question is even bigger than the million dollar settlement.
How do we expect our players to be protected from pedophiles who are drawn to youth sports? Soccer is a team sport and there is greater safety in this but the issue is that we must make sure the people responsible for training our children are thoroughly cleared.
What does US Youth Soccer’s CEO Chris Moore say?
US Youth Soccer recently passed a risk management policy to protect its millions of youth soccer players —and, it includes mandatory background checks which are required to meet the NCYS Recommended Guidelines.
“The US Youth Soccer Board of Directors, in response to an overwhelming number of our Member State Associations requesting such action, moved swiftly and deliberately to institute a comprehensive risk management policy this past August,” said Chris Moore, CEO of US Youth Soccer.
“I can tell you we feel really good about the actions taken by our Board, in terms of administering the game of soccer in a safe, fun and healthy environment,” said Moore. “Obviously, we will continue to strengthen our policies and processes, as necessary, to further safeguard our players while providing more tools and resources to our members.”
US Youth Soccer is steadfastly committed to providing the game of soccer in a safe, fun and healthy environment.
Recap of Interview with US Youth Soccer’s CEO Chris Moore on Coach Background Checks
Questions: US Youth Soccer recently passed a risk management policy but there is no requirement to use any particular company. Why would you not ensure that at least a minimum quality screening is being performed?
Chris Moore: The US Youth Soccer Risk Management Policy requires the successful completion of a background screening at least once every two years and includes the criteria provided by the National Council of Youth Sports by which all background checks must adhere.” (Attached the NCYS guidelines for reference.)
Question: Are the kids playing in US Youth Soccer safe?
Chris Moore: Yes, we believe that the Risk Management measures put in place by the USYSA Board, requiring State Associations to: (1) complete a background check on all coaches and volunteers every other year (at a minimum), (2) comply with their State and Federal laws; and (3) that every background check (at a minimum) require the individual to meet NCYS guidelines, represents a comprehensive approach in ensuring the safety of all players.
Question: What is US Youth Soccer doing to protect children as they participate in soccer programming?
Chris Moore: US Youth Soccer, as the largest youth sports organization in America and the leader in youth soccer, provides sexual abuse awareness, mandatory reporting and accountability training, and resource materials to our members.
We have updated our Code of Conduct Policy to include zero tolerance for suspected violations of abuse; we created and continue to maintain a database of individuals banned for misconduct violations to identify and remove offenders from the sport, and we instituted a policy requiring members to conduct criminal background checks.
Question: Can you clarify this a bit more?
Chris Moore: The US Youth Soccer Risk Management Policy requires that all Organization Members must, at a minimum, complete a background check every other year — in addition to complying with state and federal law regarding the quality and frequency of required background checks.
Furthermore, every background check must, at a minimum, require the individual to meet the criteria provided by the National Council of Youth Sports.
The policy passed by the Board does not stipulate a specific background screening company that an organization member must use, nor does it set specific cost parameters for their background checks – so long as they meet the requirements.
Question: Who pays for the background check?
Chris Moore: US Youth Soccer does not currently stipulate to our Organization Members who is to cover the cost of the background check (e.g. the adult volunteer vs. the Organization Member).
As this is a policy of US Youth Soccer, pursuant to US Youth Soccer Bylaw Article V, Section 1, 2, all Organization Members are required to comply.
US Youth Soccer official statement in the Jane Doe v. US Youth Soccer matter
US Youth Soccer’s top priority is providing a safe, fun and healthy environment for all who participate each year. As the largest youth sports organization in the country, where more than 100 million children have benefited from the programs and services provided by US Youth Soccer over the past 43 years, we take this responsibility seriously.
This reprehensible incident is deeply troubling, and our hearts go out to the victim. Upon learning of the allegations, we worked closely and swiftly with our Member State Association where the incident occurred to ensure that the individual had been removed from his position to eliminate any possibility of further misconduct.
Over the past few months and years, US Youth Soccer has taken additional steps to further safeguard our players while providing even more tools and resources to our members. A number of the steps include:
- Provided sexual abuse awareness, mandatory reporting, and accountability training, in addition to resource materials, to members nearly two years before being a requirement in the new federal law, “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport ActAuthorization Act of 2017.”
- Updated our Code of Conduct Policy to include zero tolerance for suspected violations of abuse.
- Created, and continue to maintain, a database of individuals banned for misconduct violations to identify and remove offenders from the sport.
- Instituted a policy requiring members to conduct criminal background checks
US Youth Soccer remains steadfastly committed to providing the game of soccer in a safe, fun and healthy environment and will continue to strengthen the directly relating organizational policies and processes accordingly.
Final Thoughts on Keeping Players Safe and Background Checks for Soccer Coaches
Keep in mind that youth soccer is a team sport and affords fewer opportunities than many other sports for pedophiles. However, horrendous injustices and abuses of youth athletes have dominated the headlines and courts for a while now and we must always be vigilant.
All of us – in the youth soccer world – must do everything we can to protect our players.
The least we can do is make sure all coaches are cleared by a comprehensive and national background check that will pick up red flags, even if the coach has moved states or committed a crime overseas.
The players, the game itself and our sleep deserve this.