AAU president: Task forces will 'redefine trust'
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The new president of the Amateur Athletic Union said Wednesday the organization will give complete access to two independent task forces established to review child safety protocols, policies and procedures in the wake of child sex abuse allegations against the AAU's former president.
The AAU announced the measures at its headquarters near Orlando, Fla. as Memphis police investigate decades-old child molestation allegations against ex-president Robert "Bobby" Dodd.
ESPN reported Friday that two former basketball players have accused Dodd of molesting them as children in the 1980s. One of the players, 43-year-old Ralph West, told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" he was assaulted in Memphis in 1984.
AAU president Louis Stout said the AAU notified Memphis police on Nov. 15 about three alleged victims after hiring a private investigator to look into anonymous emails and voicemail messages received by the AAU a week earlier.
"We've opened up every process to them," Stout said. "...We did exactly as we were asked to do."
Memphis police said Monday that investigators are trying to follow up allegations that Dodd molested children, but they have not received a formal victim complaint.
Stout said the AAU has severed ties with the 63-year-old Dodd, with the exception of about $15,000 still owed him. No phone number was listed at a Florida address for Dodd, and it was not clear whether he had consulted an attorney. Dodd, who has colon cancer, did not respond to ESPN's requests for comment.
Stout said the organization has never had any previous cases of child sex abuse, and he's confident the AAU acted decisively in turning over the allegations to police.
"It's about trust. We're here to redefine trust," Stout said. "...Were we caught off guard? Yes. Will we do everything we can to prevent another tragedy of this nature? You betcha."
Stout said the task forces —one focused on youth protection and the other on adult volunteering screening — are expected to recommend any changes to AAU's current policies by February.
The AAU oversees about 30 sports programs for all ages nationwide, including major sports like football, basketball and baseball to bocce ball, baton twirling and competitive jump rope. It says 500,000 athletes and 50,000 volunteers participate in its programs.
Asked if the AAU currently has any policies in place requiring background checks of its employees, AAU national compliance chair Henry Forrest said that there is some random screening of AAU officials, but it's not mandatory. Stout also pointed out that the AAU doesn't have authority over many of the groups that bring kids to AAU events.
Forrest said a recommendation to make background checks mandatory won't be heard until AAU's board of directors meets in March.
A pair of retired law enforcement officials will lead the screening task force. Lauren Book, founder of the Lauren's Kids child abuse advocacy foundation, is leading the youth protection task force, along with National Child Advocacy Center executive director Chris Newlin.
Book said background checks won't solve the problem.
"It's still not enough," she said. "We know some things here aren't perfect, but this is national teaching moment here."