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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Sexual abuse: Why Iceland FA resignation brings to light institutional protection

A spate of instances of sexual abuse and assault by sportspeople have highlighted how sporting institutions are inherently geared towards protecting their multi-million dollar assets.

Written by Shashank Nair , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 3, 2021 2:25:00 pm
Icelandic Football Association chairman Gudni Bergsson (Twitter/@gudnibergs)

In Iceland, a sexual abuse scandal involving an international resulted in the entire Football Association resigning for not acknowledging to have received a complaint. But a spate of former cases and present-day instances of sexual abuse and assault by sportspeople and coaching staff have highlighted how sporting institutions and its custodians are inherently geared towards protecting their multi-million dollar assets, rather than conducting a thorough investigation.

Entire Icelandic FA resigned

On Sunday, all members of the Icelandic Football Association resigned. The move was done after news broke that the FA had attempted to cover up an allegation of sexual abuse against an Icelandic player with 64 caps for his country.

A week prior to their resignation, the FA chairman, former Bolton Wanderers player Gudni Bergsson had gone on television to state that the association had not received any complaints of one of the national team players having committed sexual abuse. Once news broke out that this was a lie, the FA came out with a statement admitting their folly. “Dear victims of sexual abuse, we the members of the board of the IFA, believe you and would like to sincerely apologise to you,” the statement read.

The Icelandic FA’s lie was exposed after the victim went public with her complaint upon hearing the chairman’s comment on television. “I was not expecting any of this. I had just had enough after this interview. I felt like me and my family were being called liars because of what I have been through and the fact that Bergsson contacted us after my father’s email (earlier complaint),” said the victim, according to the Guardian.

Cristiano Ronaldo during a training session in Portugal, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Ronaldo’s move reignites abuse claims

In the summer of 2009 when Cristiano Ronaldo made his move from Manchester United to Real Madrid, he was present in Las Vegas, where he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman working at a bar. According to Der Speigel, a 27-page document containing Ronaldo’s recollection of the night had the following quote: “She said no and stop several times.”

The Der Speigel report was published in 2017 after the victim found support in a new lawyer and was quoted by the German magazine as having wanted to know if there were more victims of Ronaldo out there. Her confidence to break an out-of-court settlement for her silence on the issue was also based on the MeToo movement that snowballed after multiple women alleged that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had sexually abused them at various instances.

While a civil court case continues to be heard in the USA, Manchester United have re-signed Ronaldo to a two-year contract. While doing so, the club manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has on multiple occasions called Ronaldo a ‘great human being’. Solskjaer has in the past been accused of shielding a player who was accused of raping a woman. Babacar Sarr was infact signed by Molde while Solskjaer was manager and the rape case against Sarr was ongoing.

Brazil’s Neymar looks on during a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on September 2, 2021. (Claudio Reyes/Pool via AP)

Nike cuts ties with Neymar

In 2018, a Nike employee told the company that Neymar had sexually assaulted her in 2016. The Brazilian forward was asked by Nike to co-operate with an investigation, which was initially vetoed by the victim. But later after #MeToo, the victim decided to allow Nike to conduct an investigation.

But it turned out to not be conclusive since Neymar Jr decided to not cooperate with Nike’s investigations. Neymar’s spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that the player had denied the allegations that were made against him. It led to the American giant ending a 15-year sponsorship by cutting ties with the Brazilian.

Neymar then joined Puma and when Nike went public over the reasons to terminate their contract with him, he wrote a post on Instagram and said, “I was not given the opportunity to defend myself”.

But Neymar was and is still playing for Paris Saint Germain. The club in September 2018 signed a multi-year contract with the Jordan brand to be their primary apparel and footwear sponsor, ensuring the famed Jumpman logo appears on the club’s jersey. The Jordan brand is a subset of Nike. Essentially when the brand was deciding on how to proceed against a sponsored player allegedly sexually assaulting an employee, a subset of the brand was signing a long-term deal with the team that housed the player.

Alexander Zverev throws balls to tennis fans at the US Open, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

ATP lack of a domestic abuse policy

Recently Alexander Zverev was accused by a former girlfriend of sexual assault and abuse. Initially Zverev wrote an ambiguous post on the matter on his Instagram and said that the allegations were “simply not true”.

The Slate published an article detailing the case and sent a questionnaire Zverev’s way but the response came from his legal team to cease and desist any questions on the matter from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medallist. The article also stated that the ATP (governing body for men’s tennis) is yet to formulate a domestic abuse policy and has not even acknowledged the claims of the victim until now. On August 21, the ATP announced that they were looking into policies that pertained to domestic violence but ceased to speak on any existing cases or complaints.

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