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USTA Safe Play Conduct, Policies and Guidelines

USTA Safe Play Conduct, Policies & Guidelines

Tennis, the sport for a lifetime, is a great way to stay fit, make friends and have fun.  However, tennis, like all sports, can result in high-risk environments for misconduct, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. All forms of misconduct are unacceptable to the United States Tennis Association (“USTA”) and are in direct conflict with the USTA’s values and mission as the National Governing Body (“NGB”) for the sport of tennis in the United States. The USTA is committed to creating a safe and positive environment for every athlete’s development in an environment free of misconduct.

All of us have a role in creating and supporting a healthy environment for our sport. The USTA Safe Play Program helps to create a safe and fun environment for all participants. The following USTA Safe Play Policy serves as the governing document for the USTA Safe Play Program. 

 

I.                      APPLICATION & PARTICIPANTS

Pursuant to the USTA’s obligation as the NGB for the sport of tennis and in accordance with Section 8.7(l) of the Bylaws of the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) (2018), the following individuals (collectively “Participants”), unless otherwise noted, are subject to these Safe Play Conduct, Policies, and Guidelines (collectively, the “Safe Play Policy”) and the SafeSport Code for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement (the “Code”):  

·               Any individual who is seeking to be, currently is, or was at the time of an alleged violation of the Safe Play Policy:

o      A USTA member

o      An employee of the USTA, a Sectional Association, a District Association or Subdivision of a Sectional Association

o      Within the governance or disciplinary jurisdiction of the USTA, a Sectional Association, a District Association or Subdivision of a Sectional Association

o      Authorized, approved or appointed by the USTA, a Sectional Association, a District Association or Subdivision of a Sectional Association to a position of authority over or to have regular contact with Minor Athletes.

·               Athletes whom the USTA designates for the USADA required testing pool (RTP)

For the avoidance of doubt, Participants include individuals within the remit of USTA Player Development Incorporated, the USTA National Tennis Center Incorporated and the USTA Foundation Incorporated.

 

This document is consistent with the Code issued by the U.S. Center for SafeSport (the “Center”) pursuant to its authority under the USOC Bylaws and the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017 (the “Act”).  Further, pursuant to the Sexual Misconduct Policy approved by the USTA Board of Directors on March 23, 2017, Section 8.7(l) of the Bylaws of the USOC (2019), and the Act, the Center has the exclusive authority to investigate and resolve alleged Safe Play Policy violations involving sexual misconduct (as described in Section II(A) herein).  The USTA is obligated to, and shall cooperate to the extent permissible by law, with any investigation by the Center or law enforcement agency related to sexual misconduct within the sport of tennis or otherwise The USTA retains the authority to investigate and resolve alleged violations of the Safe Play Policy that are non-sexual in nature.  However, at the USTA’s request, the Center may exercise discretionary authority to take on cases of this nature.  The Code in its entirety can be found here

 

 

II.              PROHIBITED CONDUCT

All Participants, as defined above, must comply, in all respects, with the Code.  The USTA hereby incorporates the definitions and provisions set forth in the Code.  A copy can be found here. For ease of reference, the categories of Prohibited Conduct (as defined in the Code) include, but are not limited to:

·               Criminal Charge or Disposition

·               Child Abuse

·               Sexual Misconduct

·               Emotional and physical misconduct, including stalking, bullying, hazing and harassment

·               Aiding and Abetting

·               Misconduct Related to Reporting

·               Misconduct Related to the Center’s Process

·               Other Inappropriate Conduct

·               Proactive Policy Violations by Applicable Adults (as defined below)

III.             PROACTIVE POLICIES

Proactive policies are critical to reducing the risk of misconduct.  Clearly outlined boundaries help foster the safe and respectful environment in which athletes thrive.  These policies (known collectively as “Proactive Policies”) are as follows:

A.        One-on-one interactions, including meetings and individual training sessions including massages and rubdowns/athletic training modalities

B.        Locker rooms and changing areas

C.       Social media and electronic communications

D.       Local travel

E.        Team travel

These Proactive Policies are applicable to all USTA sanctioned tournaments, programs and events.  Pursuant to the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 (the “Act”), all NGBs must implement reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between an athlete who is a minor and an adult (who is not the minor’s legal guardian) without being in an observable and interruptible distance from another adult, except under emergency circumstances.  The foregoing policies are intended to facilitate the USTA in meeting its obligations under federal law.    

 

A.       One-on-One Interactions Policy  

This One-on-One Interactions policy applies to:

·               Adult members at a facility that is either partially or fully under the jurisdiction of the USTA

·               Adult members who have regular contact with athletes who are minors

·               Any adult authorized by the USTA to have regular contact with or authority over an athlete who is a minor

·               Adult staff and board members of the USTA

(Collectively, “Applicable Adult” for purposes of this policy.)

One-on-one interactions between a minor athlete and an Applicable Adult (who is not the minor’s legal guardian) are permitted if they occur at an observable and interruptible distance from another adult.  One-on-one interactions that are not interruptible and observable between minor athletes and an Applicable Adult are prohibited, except in the circumstances described in subpart (1)(c) of this section and under emergency circumstances.  This policy applies during all activities, including practice, competition, travel, lodging and any health or medical treatment occurring on-site.

1.        One-on-One Meetings

A one-on-one meeting may be necessary to address a minor athlete’s training schedule or other issues.  Under these circumstances, Applicable Adults must observe the following guidelines:

·               Any meeting between an Applicable Adult and a minor athlete may only occur with another adult present, except under emergency circumstances.  Such meetings must occur where interactions can be easily observed and at an interruptible distance from another adult. 

·               If a one-on-one meeting is to take place in an office, the door to the office must remain unlocked and open. If available, it will occur in an office that has windows, with the windows, blinds and/or curtains remaining open during the meeting.

·               If a mental health care professional and/or health care provider meets with minor athletes, a closed-door meeting may be permitted to protect patient privacy—provided that (i) the door remains unlocked, (ii) another adult is present at the facility, (iii) the other adult is advised that a closed-door meeting is occurring, and (iv) written legal guardian consent is obtained in advance by the mental health care professional and/or health care provider, with a copy provided to the USTA (sent to safeplay@usta.com).

2.        One-on-One Training Sessions

A one-on-one training session(s) between an Applicable Adult and a minor athlete is permitted if the training session is observable and interruptible by another adult.  It is the responsibility of the Applicable Adult to obtain the written permission of the minor’s legal guardian in advance of the one-on-one training session if the one-on-one training session is not observable and interruptible by another adult.  Written permission for one-on-one training sessions must be obtained at least every six months.  Parents, guardians and other caretakers must be allowed to observe the training session. 

3.        Monitoring

All one-on-one interactions between minor athletes and Applicable Adults at a USTA facility, program or event must be monitored.  Monitoring includes knowing that one-on-one interactions are occurring, the approximate planned duration of the interaction and randomly dropping in on one-on-one interactions.  It is the responsibility of the program administrator to develop a monitoring plan.

4.      Gifting

 

Gift-giving or providing special favors or privileges to an individual minor athlete is prohibited.

5.        Out-of-Program Contacts

 

Applicable Adults are prohibited from interacting one-on-one with unrelated minor athletes in settings outside of the program (including, but not limited to, one’s home) unless parent/legal guardian written consent is provided for each out-of-program contact.

6.        Physical Contact with Minor Athletes

 

a.        Physical contact with athletes, for safety, consolation and celebration, should only occur if the following criteria are observed:

·               The physical contact takes place in public.

·               There is no potential for physical or sexual intimacies during the physical contact.

·               The physical contact is for the benefit of the athlete, not to meet an emotional or other need of an adult.

b.        Massages & Rubdowns / Athletic Training Modalities

 

Any massage or rubdown/athletic training modality performed on a minor athlete must be:

·               Conducted in an open and interruptible location.

·               Done with at least one other adult present and must never be done with only the minor athlete and the person performing the massage or rubdown/athletic modality in the room.

·               If requested, parents/legal guardians are permitted to be in the room as observers.

7.        Prohibited Physical Contact

Prohibited forms of physical contact, which must be reported immediately to the USTA (safeplay@usta.com), include, but are not limited to:

·               Asking or having a minor athlete sit in the lap of a coach, administrator, staff member or volunteer.

·               Lingering or repeated embraces of a minor athlete that go beyond the criteria set forth for physical contact.

·               Slapping, hitting, punching, kicking or any other physical contact meant to discipline, punish or achieve compliance from a minor athlete.

·               “Cuddling” or maintaining prolonged physical contact during any aspect of training, travel or overnight stay.

·               Playful yet inappropriate contact that is not a part of regular training, (e.g., tickling or “horseplay” wrestling).

·               Continued physical contact that makes a minor athlete obviously uncomfortable, whether expressed or not.

·               Any contact that is contrary to a previously expressed personal desire for decreased or no physical contact, where such decreased contact is feasible in a competitive training environment.

B.       Locker Rooms & Changing Areas Policy

This Locker Room & Changing Area policy applies to:

·               Adult members at a facility that is either partially or fully under the jurisdiction of the USTA

·               Adult members who have regular contact with athletes who are minors

·               Any adult authorized by the USTA to have regular contact with or authority over an athlete who is a minor

·               Adult staff and board members of the USTA

(Collectively, “Applicable Adult” for purposes of this policy.)

All Applicable Adults must adhere to the following rules:

·               Use of any device’s (including a cell phone’s) recording capabilities, including voice recording, still cameras and video cameras, in locker rooms, changing areas or similar spaces is prohibited.  Exceptions may be made for media and championship celebrations, provided that such exceptions are approved by the USTA and two or more Applicable Adults are present.

·               Under no circumstances shall an unrelated Applicable Adult intentionally expose his or her breasts, buttocks, groin or genitals to a minor athlete.

·               Except for athletes on the same team, at no time are unrelated Applicable Adults permitted to be alone with a minor athlete in a locker room or changing area, except under emergency circumstances.

·               Regular and random sweeps of locker rooms and changing areas shall be conducted at facilities under the USTA’s jurisdiction to monitor and ensure compliance with these policies.

·               When using a facility that only has a single gender locker room or changing area, there shall be either:

o      separate changing spaces designated for Applicable Adults and minors

o      separate times designated for use by Applicable Adults, if any. 

·               Use of locker room monitors are recommended to ensure that minor athletes are not left unsupervised in locker rooms and changing areas.

·               Applicable Adults shall make every effort to recognize when a minor athlete goes to the locker room or changing area during practice and competition and, if he or she does not return in a timely fashion, must check on the minor athlete’s whereabouts.

·               Parents are only permitted in locker rooms and changing areas under emergency circumstances.  In those instances, only a same-sex parent may enter the locker room or changing area, and the parent must notify the coach or administrator in advance. 

C.       Social Media & Electronic Communications Policy

This Social Media & Electronic Communications policy applies to:

·               Adult members who have regular contact with athletes who are minors

·               Any adult authorized by the USTA to have regular contact with or authority over an athlete who is a minor

·               Adult staff and board members of the USTA

(Collectively, “Applicable Adult” for purposes of this policy.)

1.        Content

 

All electronic communication originating from an Applicable Adult to minor athletes must be professional in nature.

 

2.        Open and Transparent

 

·               Absent emergency circumstances, if an Applicable Adult with authority over minor athletes needs to communicate directly with a minor athlete via electronic communications (including social media), another Applicable Adult or the minor’s legal guardian must be copied.

·               If a minor athlete communicates to the Applicable Adult (with authority over the minor athlete) privately first, said Applicable Adult must respond to the minor athlete with a copy to another Applicable Adult or the minor’s legal guardian.

·               When an Applicable Adult with authority over minor athletes communicates electronically to the entire team, said Applicable Adult must copy another adult.

·               Minor athletes are permitted to “friend” the USTA or organization’s official social media channels.

 

3.        Requests to Discontinue

 

Legal guardians may request in writing that their minor athlete not be contacted through any form of electronic communication by the organization or by the Applicable Adult.  The USTA will honor any such request that their minor athlete not be contacted via electronic communication, absent emergency circumstances. 

 

 

 

 

4.      Hours

 

Electronic communications must only be sent between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., unless emergency circumstances exist, or while traveling internationally or during competition travel.

 

5.      Monitoring

 

The USTA monitors its social media pages and removes any posts that violate the USTA’s policies and practices for appropriate behavior.  The USTA will inform the legal guardian of a minor athlete of any prohibited posts.  In addition, in the event of threatening or harassing comments targeting or about an athlete or Applicable Adult, the USTA may notify industry partners including but not limited to the WTA, ATP Tour and/or the ITF so that those entities may address the situation according to their policies.

 

6.      Prohibited Electronic Disclosures

 

Applicable Adults with authority over minor athletes are not permitted to maintain private social media connections with unrelated athletes, and such Applicable Adults are not permitted to accept new personal page requests on social media platforms from athletes who are minors, unless the Applicable Adult has a fan page, or the contact is deemed as celebrity contact vs. regular contact.  Existing social media connections on personal pages with minor athletes must be discontinued.  

 

D.     Travel Policy

The following travel policies apply to:

·               Adult members who have regular contact with athletes who are minors

·               Any adult authorized by the USTA to have regular contact with or authority over an athlete who is a minor

·               Adult staff and board members of the USTA

(Collectively, “Applicable Adult” for purposes of this policy.)

 

1.        Local Travel

 

Local travel consists of travel to training, practice and competition that occurs locally and does not include coordinated overnight stay(s).

 

·               Local Travel Transportation

·               Applicable Adults (except for legal guardians) shall not ride in a vehicle alone with an unrelated minor athlete, absent emergency circumstances, and must have at least two minor athletes or another adult in transport at all times, unless otherwise agreed to in writing by the minor athlete’s parent/legal guardian in advance of each local travel.

·               The USTA encourages parents/legal guardians to pick up their minor athlete first and to drop off their minor athlete last in any shared or carpool travel arrangement.

·               The USTA recommends that parents/legal guardians receive education concerning child abuse prevention before providing consent for their minor athlete to travel alone with an Applicable Adult who is the subject of these policies.  Resources for parents can be found here: www.USCenterForSafeSport.org.

 

2.        Team Travel

Team travel is travel to a USTA sanctioned event or competition or other activity that the USTA plans and supervises. 

 

·               Team / Competition Travel

o      When only one Applicable Adult and one minor athlete travel to a competition, the minor athlete must have his or her legal guardian’s written permission in advance and for each competition to travel alone with said Applicable Adult.

·               Hotel Rooms

·               Applicable Adults shall not share a hotel room or other sleeping arrangement with a minor athlete (unless the Applicable Adult is the legal guardian, sibling or is otherwise related to the minor athlete).  However, a parent/legal guardian may consent to such an arrangement in advance and in writing.  Furthermore, a parent/legal guardian may consent in advance and in writing to the minor athlete sharing a hotel room or other sleeping arrangement with an adult athlete.

·               Meetings

·               Meetings while traveling shall be conducted consistent with the Safe Play Policy for one-on-one interactions (i.e., any such meeting shall be observable and interruptible).

·               Prior to any team travel, all minor athletes, parents/legal guardians and Applicable Adults taking part in the travel must have been notified of these Safe Play Policies and reporting channels.

·               Applicable Adults traveling with minor athletes for USTA sanctioned event or competitions must be in compliance with the USTA Safe Play Program.

·               During team travel, when doing room checks, attending team meetings and during all other activities, two-deep leadership (i.e., two Applicable Adults) and observable and interruptible environments must be maintained. 

·               Meetings are not permitted to be conducted in a hotel room.

·               The USTA recommends that parents/legal guardians receive education concerning child abuse prevention before providing consent for their minor athlete to travel alone with an Applicable Adult who is the subject of these policies.  Resources for parents can be found here: www.USCenterForSafeSport.org.

 

E.        Violations

 

Violations of the Safe Play Policy, including these Proactive Policies, must be reported to the USTA immediately.  Violations will be addressed according to the USTA Safe Play Policy.  In addition, some forms of physical contact may constitute child physical or sexual abuse that must be reported immediately to appropriate law enforcement authorities and the U.S. Center for SafeSport as outlined in the Act (found here: https://www.congress.gov/115/plaws/publ126/PLAW-115publ126.pdf).

 

 

IV.            TRAINING & EDUCATION

The USTA requires that the following Participants complete education concerning misconduct in sport and child abuse prevention on an annual basis:

·               Adult USTA members who have regular contact with athletes who are minors

·               Adults authorized to have regular contact with or authority over an athlete who is a minor by the USTA, Sectional Associations and District Associations or Subdivisions of Sectional Associations

·               Adult staff and board members of the USTA, Sectional Associations and District Associations or Subdivisions of Sectional Associations.

·               Non-athletes whom the USTA authorizes to train, reside or work at any Olympic Training Center.  Such individuals are expected to demonstrate successful completion of the safety program before accessing any Olympic Training Center.

The USTA has adopted the training and educational materials developed and provided by the Center to meet the requirements outlined above.  The categories of individuals who fall within this requirement include but are not limited to those outlined below.  This list will be updated at least annually on January 15 of each year:

·               USTA staff and Board of Directors

·               Staff and Board of Directors for Sectional Associations and District Associations or Subdivisions of Sectional Associations

·               Independent contractors falling within this definition, such as athletic trainers, massage therapists, doctors working a delegation event or the US Open, and medical and physio specialists

·               USTA Certified Officials

·               Player Development Coaches hired for USTA Sectional camps

·               Volunteer coaches for USTA Junior Team Tennis

·               All Net Generation tennis providers

·               Pro Circuit Tournament Directors

·               USTA Junior Sanctioned Tournament Directors

·               USTA Player Development Incorporated staff and Board of Directors

·               USTA National Tennis Center Incorporated staff and Board of Directors

·               USTA Foundation Incorporated staff and Board of Directors

·               USTA Junior Team Tennis 18-year-old athletes

·               Athletes selected by the USTA for a delegation event who are at least 18 years old as of the closing ceremony of said delegation event

Education concerning misconduct in sport and child abuse prevention must be completed either (i) before regular contact with an athlete who is a minor, or (ii) within the first 45 days of initial membership, or upon beginning a new role subjecting the adult to this requirement, whichever occurs sooner. 

The following training and education standard must be met to be considered compliant:

·               The Center’s 90-minute “Core Center for SafeSport Training” module which must be completed as required above or upon an individual’s current Safe Play approved status expiration.

·               A refresher course will be required on an annual basis effective the calendar year following the completion of the Core Center for SafeSport Training for each of the above listed adults.

The USTA will conduct random and periodic checks to confirm all individuals identified above have met the training and education requirement.

In those instances in which an individual does not have ongoing or continuous interactions throughout a season or programmatic year (and therefore has only incidental contact with athletes), he or she will be provided with information about the USTA Safe Play Program and the Center’s resources.  These individuals include, but are not limited to:

·               Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Volunteers

·               US Open Volunteers

·               Anti-Doping Chaperones during the US Open

·               Fed Cup and Davis Cup Volunteers

·               USTA National Campus Ambassadors

·               Physicians working at USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments

·               Volunteers engaged by a sponsor or third party to participate in a USTA event involving minors

 

V.              BACKGROUND SCREENING

The USTA requires USTA employees and individuals the USTA formally authorizes, approves or appoints to (a) serve in a position of authority over, or (b) have regular contact with athletes to complete a criminal background screen at least every two years.

Background screens must be completed either (i) before regular contact with an athlete who is a minor, or (ii) within the first 45 days of initial membership, or upon beginning a new role subjecting the adult to this requirement, whichever occurs sooner. 

In addition, a criminal background screen must be conducted for any non-athlete the USTA authorizes to train, stay or work at an Olympic Training Center.  Effective September 30, 2019, this shall also apply to any athlete and alternates, training partners and guides 18 years of age or older selected by the USTA to participate in a national or international team or Delegation Event as well as selected to train at any Olympic Training Center or Site, or Delegation Event Training Site.  Background screens as described here must be completed prior to the start of work, training or competition.

The categories of individuals included in this requirement are outlined below.  This list will be updated at least annually on January 15 of each year:

·               USTA staff and Board of Directors

·               Independent contractors falling within this definition, such as athletic trainers, massage therapists and physio specialists

·               Medical doctors selected by the USTA for Delegation Events

·               U.S. USTA Certified Officials (including those individuals under 18 years old)

·               Player Development Coaches hired for USTA Sectional camps

·               Volunteer coaches for USTA Junior Team Tennis (including those individuals under 18 years old)

·               All Net Generation tennis providers (including those individuals under 18 years old)

·               Pro Circuit Tournament Directors

·               USTA Junior Sanctioned Tournament Directors

·               Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Volunteers (including those individuals under 18 years old)

·               US Open Volunteers (including those individuals under 18 years old)

·               Fed Cup and Davis Cup Volunteers (including those individuals under 18 years old)

·               Anti-Doping Chaperones during the US Open

·               USTA Player Development Incorporated Staff and Board of Directors

·               USTA National Tennis Center Incorporated Staff and Board of Directors

·               USTA Foundation Board Incorporated Staff and Board of Directors

Screening shall be conducted by a reputable background screening firm with experience working with youth-serving organizations. The background screen process must be completed online.  Sectional Associations and District Associations or Subdivisions of Sectional Associations may develop policies that go beyond the requirements described herein.  

A.     Offenses Screened For

 

The offenses listed below are a sampling of what is being screened for when a background check is performed.  The USTA reserves the right to consider additional crimes should it determine, in its sole discretion, that it would be in the best interest of the sport.  Reportable convictions for, disclosure of convictions for, and pending dispositions for, any of the offenses listed below, or registrations will prompt a determination that a Participant does not meet the USTA Safe Play criteria.

 

Reportable convictions for, disclosures of convictions for, and pending dispositions for any of the following criminal offenses, or registrations will prompt a determination that a Participant does not meet the criteria for participation:

 

·               Any felony including an element of violence regardless of the amount of time since the offense, and any non-violent felony within the past fifteen (15) years (felony defined as any crime punishable by confinement greater than one year).

o      Defined on the basis of exposure for the offense for which the defendant was convicted, pled guilty, pled nolo contendere or which is pending a disposition. If pled down, then the crime for which the defendant ultimately was convicted.

o      Defined as all crimes punishable by greater than one year in jail or prison, regardless of how characterized by jurisdiction. If range, alternate sentencing, or indeterminate sentencing, outer range greater than one year.

·               Any lesser crime involving force or threat of force against a person regardless of the amount of time since the offense.

·               Any lesser crime, regardless of the amount of time since the offense, of a sexual nature or classified as a sex offense, including but not limited to “victimless” crimes of a sexual nature such as prostitution, pornography, indecent exposure and crimes in which sexual relations is an element.

·               Any lesser crime within the past ten (10) years involving controlled substances (not paraphernalia or alcohol).

·               Any lesser crime within the past fifteen (15) years involving cruelty to animals.

·               Any sex offender registrant.

·               Any lesser crime within the past ten (10) years involving harm to a minor not included in numbers 1 to 6 above.

 

Criminal offenses include “Attempted Crimes” in the above classification.

 

B.       Motor Vehicle Reports

 

In limited instances, the USTA may require a Participant be subject to a motor vehicle report check.  Prior to any review of motor vehicle reports, the USTA will procure the Participant’s permission.  

 

C.       Full Disclosure & Ongoing Obligation

 

Once a Participant has successfully met the USTA Safe Play background screen criteria, the Participant will be considered in good standing until the expiration of their background screen, as applicable; provided, however, if within that period the USTA becomes aware of any potential change in status (e.g., criminal activity) either through information received from the Participant, the media, third parties or otherwise, the USTA shall have the right to conduct additional background screening at any time, and should the findings meet the criteria outlined above, the USTA shall have the right to immediately withdraw the Participant’s good standing status.  The Participant has an ongoing obligation, prior to the expiration of his or her background screen, to inform the USTA if there has been any change in his or her status (e.g., criminal activity).   

 

D.       Reciprocity

 

The USTA shall, to the extent it is able, enforce any suspension or other sanction issued by the Center or any other NGB against a Participant, even if arising from allegations occurring outside of USTA programs or sanctioned tournaments and events.    

 

E.        Findings

 

Based on the above-referenced criteria, a Participant’s background screen review will return with either a “green light” or “red light” finding.  A green light means that the background screen provider did not locate any records suggesting that the Participant does not meet the USTA’s background screen criteria.  A red light finding means the criminal background check revealed criminal records which suggest the Participant does not meet the criteria.  A red light finding may also mean that the background screen vendor is requiring additional information from the Participant and, until that information is received, the background screen vendor cannot proceed with the background screen review.  

 

The Center requires the USTA to report to the Center any Participant’s red light determination based on a Criminal Charge or Disposition involving sexual misconduct or child abuse. 

 

1.        Appeals Based on Accuracy of Background Screen Results

If a Participant receives a red light finding based on records in which the Participant determines are inaccurate, the Participant may challenge the accuracy of the report directly with the background screen vendor.  The Participant will receive information from the background screen vendor regarding that process.    

 

2.        Appeals to the USTA Based on an Accurate Red Light Finding

Participants who receive an accurate red light determination have thirty (30) days from the date of determination to request an appeal.  If the Criminal Charge or Disposition involves sexual misconduct or child abuse, the appeal request must be made to the Center.  The Center will provide the Participant with instructions on how to initiate an appeal pursuant to the Code.  All other appeals for red light determinations not related to sexual misconduct or child abuse shall be made to the USTA’s Safe Play Review Panel.

The USTA Safe Play Review Panel shall be populated by up to five individuals from the USTA Safe Play Background Check Review Pool (“Review Pool”) and adhere to the 20% athlete representation requirement when an athlete is the subject of the review.  The Review Pool will consist of:

·               USTA Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel

·               Director, Strategic Initiatives

·               Deputy Chief Legal Officer & Associate General Counsel

·               Senior Counsel

·               Senior Director, Security

·               General Manager, Player Development or his or her designee (USTA Player Development matters)

·               Chief Executive of Community Tennis or his or her designee

·               Athlete Representative designated by the Athletes’ Advisory Council (when the Participant is an athlete)

The USTA will not consider an appeal for a conviction that results in the Participant being currently registered on any state, federal, territorial or tribal sex offender registry for any form of Sexual Misconduct. 

To initiate an appeal for all other red light findings, the Participant must do all of the following:

a.    Provide an email with the subject line “Background Screen Appeal” to safeplay@usta.com

b.        Within that email, provide his or her full name, contact email, phone number and a brief description of the position sought

c.        Provide a reasonable description of the grounds for disqualification and any information that might be useful for the Review Panel to know, including references and the Participant’s influence on tennis.

In making a final determination, the Review Panel will evaluate the circumstances surrounding the disqualifying matter, the dates in which the matter occurred and the overall impact of the matter on the relevant USTA program, event or tournament position sought. The Review Panel may take up to 14 business days to process the appeal once it is received. Notice will be provided to the Participant with the Review Panel’s decision.

Should the Review Panel grant the appeal, the Participant will be required to complete a new background screen and submit a subsequent appeal (as applicable) in two (2) years from the date of the original determination by NCSI.

If the Participant disagrees with the finding of the Review Panel, he or she may appeal the decision by filing a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) within thirty (30) days of the Review Panel’s decision.  A decision rendered by the AAA shall be final and binding on all parties. 

In the event a similar appeal has already been conducted by another NGB and that appeal resulted in disqualification of the Participant, the USTA shall, to the extent it is able, uphold the same determination. 

Questions may be directed to safeplay@usta.com.  Please note that only logistical questions and questions about the process will be answered.  Questions concerning whether or not an appeal will be successful will not be answered until the Review Panel has made its decision. 

Absent good cause shown, appeals not emailed within 30 days are barred. Individuals with a red light determination who do not appeal or do not prevail on appeal will be not be permitted to apply to the Safe Play Program for a period of two (2) years. 

 

F.        Other Information

 

The USTA currently covers the cost of background screens for the USTA Safe Play Program.   

The USTA will conduct random and periodic checks to confirm all individuals identified above have met the background screen requirement.

VI.            REPORTING & RESPONDING

NOTE: Nothing in this policy shall be construed to require a victim of child abuse or other misconduct to self-report.

 

No one should investigate suspicions or allegations of child abuse or other misconduct, or attempt to evaluate the credibility or validity of allegations as a condition of reporting to the appropriate authorities.

All reports made pursuant to the reporting requirements below may be made anonymously.  No direct fees or other cost is involved in making a report. 

A.       Reporting Requirements

Please refer to the Code for definitions of all capitalized terms.

1.        Child Abuse

An Adult Participant, including any adult USTA member, who learns of information and reasonably suspects that a child has suffered an incident of child abuse, including sexual abuse,  must immediately (within 24 hours) make a report of the suspected abuse to both Law Enforcement and the Center.  Once those reporting obligations are met, a report must also be made directly to the USTA:   

a.        Law Enforcement

·               The agency designated by the Attorney General, consistent with the federal requirements set forth in section 226 of the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 (34 U.S.C. Sec. 20341).

·               Applicable State Law Enforcement agency.  Learn more about this requirement by visiting here.

b.        U.S. Center for SafeSport

·               Through the Center’s online reporting form, www.USCenterForSafeSport.org.

·               By phone at 720.531.0340 during regular business hours (Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. MT).

Reporting such conduct to the Center does not satisfy an Adult Participant’s obligation to report to law enforcement or other appropriate authorities consistent with section 226 of the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 (34 U.S.C. Sec. 20341).

c.        The USTA Safe Play Office

Following all other reporting requirements have been met, reports to the USTA can be made either by:

·               Calling the USTA’s reporting hotline at 855-791-1345 (toll-free, within the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and Canada).

·               Emailing the USTA at safeplay@usta.com, clearly describing the incident, location of incident, and people involved.

·               Completing and submitting a Safe Play Misconduct Reporting form to the USTA.

2.        Sexual Misconduct      

The USTA and the Center encourages anyone who experiences or becomes aware of an incident of sexual misconduct involving a Participant to report the incident immediately to the Center (and/or law enforcement if the matter involves possible criminal conduct).

Adult Participants must promptly report possible Sexual Misconduct directly to the Center (and/or law enforcement if the matter involves possible criminal conduct) whenever such Participants become aware of conduct that could constitute Sexual Misconduct. 

3.        Emotional and Physical Misconduct and Proactive Policy Violations

Adult Participants are required to report to the USTA emotional and physical misconduct (including bullying, stalking, hazing and harassment) prohibited under the Code and this Safe Play Policy.  This includes all violations of the Proactive Policies. 

 

Reports to the USTA can be made either by:

·               Calling the USTA’s reporting hotline at 855-791-1345 (toll-free, within the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico and Canada)

·               Emailing the USTA at safeplay@usta.com, clearly describing the incident, location of incident and people involved.

·               Completing and submitting a Safe Play Misconduct Reporting form to the USTA.  The online reporting tool and phone allow reporters to report anonymously, if they wish to keep their identities anonymous. However, anonymous reports may limit the USTA’s ability to investigate and respond to a complaint.

Should you need to contact someone immediately or have questions on how to report, please contact safeplay@usta.com.

 

Maliciously or vindictively making a report of misconduct is prohibited and may violate state and federal criminal laws as well as civil defamation laws and any sanctions issued by the USTA.  In addition, the USTA and the Center will consider any forms of Retaliation a violation of the Safe Play Policy and the Code. 

 

4.        Criminal Dispositions

                       

The USTA and Adult Participants are required to report to the Center Criminal Charge(s) and Disposition(s) involving sexual misconduct or misconduct involving Minors.  For the avoidance of doubt, this includes reporting any Criminal Charge(s) and Dispositions(s) involving sexual misconduct or misconduct involving minors that are contained in  a background screen results.  The Center reviews Criminal Charges or Dispositions involving sexual misconduct or child abuse de novo; any prior consideration or finding by the USTA or a Sectional Associations and District Associations or Subdivisions of Sectional Associations regarding such matters is not relevant to the Center’s determination.  A Participant may challenge the Center’s decision as outlined in Section IX(A)(3) of the Code.

Adult Participants are required to report Criminal Charge(s) and Disposition(s) involving any other form of misconduct to the USTA.

5.        Misconduct Related to the Center’s Process

Adult Participants are required to report to the Center any suspected incident(s) of:

·               Aiding and Abetting

·               Abuse of Process

·               Retaliation

B.       How Reports of Child Abuse or Sexual Misconduct are Handled 

 

Pursuant to the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Act of 2017, the USTA has a legal obligation, and will meet its obligation, in reporting any suspicions of child abuse, including sexual abuse, it becomes aware of within 24 hours to:

·               Law enforcement consistent with Sec. 226 of the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 (34 U.S.C. 20341); and

·               The Center, if the matter involves a Participant, adult USTA member or an athlete.

Pursuant to the Sexual Misconduct Policy approved by the USTA Board of Directors on March 23, 2017, the Center has the exclusive authority to investigate and resolve alleged violations of the Code involving sexual misconduct or child abuse.  In addition, pursuant to Section 8.7(1) of the Bylaws of the U.S. Olympic Committee (2016), of which the USTA is a member as the NGB for the sport of tennis, the USTA provides the exclusive authority to investigate and resolve any allegation of a violation of this Safe Play Policy involving sexual misconduct or child abuse to the Center.  The USTA is obligated to and shall cooperate, to the extent permissible by law, with any investigation by the Center or law enforcement agency related to sexual misconduct or child abuse within the sport of tennis or otherwise.  The USTA retains the authority to investigate and resolve alleged violations of the Code or violations of this Safe Play Policy that are non-sexual in nature.  However, at the USTA’s request, the Center may exercise the discretionary authority to take on cases of this nature.  

 

The USTA reserves the right to suspend an individual who is the subject of an investigation by law enforcement authorities, the Center or the USTA from participation in any USTA, USTA Sectional or USTA District sanctioned tournament, event or program until said investigation has concluded.

C.       How Reports That Are Non-Sexual in Nature Are Handled

 

To the extent permissible by law, the USTA may investigate, as appropriate, non-sexual allegations of violations of the Safe Play Policy and address them accordingly.  Should the USTA receive a report of non-sexual misconduct which, as determined by the USTA, rises to the level of unlawful behavior, the USTA will make a report to the proper law enforcement agency.  The USTA will not conduct an investigation if said investigation in any way interferes with a pending legal investigation or criminal prosecution.

Upon receipt of a report of allegations that are non-sexual in nature, the USTA will first determine if the matter is more appropriate for the USTA Grievance & Suspension Appeal Process as outlined in USTA Bylaw 43 and 63.  This includes matters related to racquet abuse, line calls and unsportsmanlike conduct.

If the matter falls outside of the USTA Grievance & Suspension Appeal Process and, based on the information provided in the report, is determined to be a violation of the Safe Play Policy, the USTA will proceed with its Safe Play Resolution Process as outlined below.

D.       SAFE PLAY RESOLUTION PROCESS

1.        Definitions

“Claimant” is the person who alleged to have experienced conduct that constitutes a Safe Play Policy violation.

“Respondent” is a Participant who is alleged to have violated the USTA policies.

Reports brought by individuals other than the Claimant are referred to as “third-party reports,” and those bringing them are “Third-party Reporters.”

2.        Procedures

The timing and scope of the USTA’s investigation will be based on the particular circumstances of the matter at issue. While applying the USTA policies consistently in similar situations is a priority, the USTA policies are flexible and will not be applied the same way in every situation. The USTA reserves the right to modify its processes as it deems necessary.

a.        Advisors

The Claimant, Respondent and Third-Party Reporter are entitled to an advisor of their choosing to guide and accompany them throughout the investigation. The advisor may be a friend, mentor, family member, attorney or any other supporter a party chooses to advise them who is eligible and available. The advisor may not be any one who may be called as a witness.

Each party is entitled to be accompanied by their advisor in all meetings and interviews at which the party is entitled to be present, including intake, interviews and hearings. An advisor should help their advisee prepare for each meeting, and is expected to advise ethically, with integrity and in good faith.

An advisor may not present on behalf of their advisee in a meeting, interview or hearing. An advisor is expected to refrain from interference with the USTA’s investigation and may be asked to leave any meeting if a USTA official considers the advisor to be disruptive or otherwise failing to respect the limits of the advisor role.

b.      Recording

No audio or video recording of any kind is permitted during meetings with USTA officials other than as authorized by the USTA.  The USTA will perform all recordings as it deems necessary.

c.      Participation

During an investigation, the Claimant, Respondent and Third-party Reporter are permitted to provide evidence, including written statements, lists of potential witnesses and other physical or documentary evidence.

Full cooperation and participation in the investigation process is important to ensure that all relevant facts and evidence are presented to the USTA so it can determine whether a Safe Play Policy violation has occurred. If a party declines to cooperate or participate in an investigation, the USTA will make its decision based on the available evidence.

3.        Preliminary Inquiry

When the USTA receives notice of a matter within its jurisdiction, it will undertake a preliminary inquiry to determine whether or not there is reason to believe a Safe Play Policy violation has occurred. If, after the preliminary inquiry, the USTA concludes there is reason to believe a Safe Play Policy violation has occurred, it will initiate proceedings, which may include an informal or formal resolution. If the USTA deems that there is insufficient information to determine if there is reason to believe a USTA policy violation has occurred, it may administratively close the matter, with the option to reopen it if more information is presented in the future.

At any time prior to the USTA’s final decision, the USTA has the authority to reach an informal resolution.  An informal resolution is a final disposition of the matter, and the final disposition will not be confidential.

4.        Temporary Measures and Safety Plans

At any point before a matter is final, temporary measures or safety plans may be appropriate to ensure the safety or well-being of any of the parties. Temporary measures may include, but are not limited to, altering training schedules, providing chaperones, implementing contact limitations between the parties and suspensions. The USTA will work with the parties to identify genuine concerns for physical safety and may implement a safety plan for training or tournament settings. 

5.        Investigation

The USTA may take the following steps in its investigation:

a.        Notify the Claimant or Third-party Reporter that the USTA is conducting an investigation into the possible USTA policy violation and inform the Claimant or Third-party Reporter of the right to meet with the investigator and present evidence in support of the complaint along with the names and/or contact information of any potential witnesses with direct knowledge of the allegations.

b.        Seek to interview the Respondent and advise the Respondent of the nature of the allegation before making a determination. The Respondent will be provided the opportunity to present a response to the allegations, including evidence and the names and/or contact information of potential witnesses with direct knowledge of the allegations.
 

c.        Seek to interview witnesses with direct knowledge of the allegations.

d.        Seek evidence and take any other action as the USTA may deem relevant to the investigation.

e.        Review the evidence provided by a Third-party Reporter, Claimant, Respondent or any other source.

f.         Document all investigative efforts, including, but not limited to, interviews, receipt of relevant documentation, database searches, and review and collection of other publicly-available information (e.g., social media, public records).

6.        Closing the Investigation & the USTA’s Decision

At any point prior to the final resolution, the USTA may close the investigation if (a) the USTA could not conduct or complete the investigation, (b) it is determined the USTA does not have authority or jurisdiction over the alleged USTA policy violation; or (c) it is determined there is no reason to believe that there has been a USTA policy violation. The USTA may, at its discretion, reopen any case closed.

Upon completing the investigation, the USTA may prepare a report that sets forth the findings of fact and references of disputed facts and any credibility assessments. The USTA’s report will also state whether the Respondent violated USTA policy.

Upon the USTA’s decision that no further investigation is necessary, the USTA will issue a decision that (a) states whether a USTA policy violation occurred, based on the evidence, (b) the USTA policy violation and (c) the sanction to be imposed, if any.  The decision will include a summary of the relevant facts, evidence relied upon and the rationale for the decision. Names of witnesses and parties will be replaced with alpha-numeric identifiers.

7.        Notice of Decision

The USTA will provide written notice and a copy of the decision to the Respondent and the Claimant (the “Safe Play Notice of Decision”) via electronic and certified mail.  The Safe Play Notice of Decision will state the Respondent’s opportunity to request an appeal to the USTA to challenge all or part of the decision.  The decision will also include notice of the Claimant’s right to request an appeal before the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) to challenge the Safe Play Notice of Decision.   

8.        Appeals

All Claimants and Respondents have the right to request an arbitration hearing concerning the Safe Play Notice of Decision before AAA, a third-party arbitration body.  To request a hearing, send an email indicating that request to the USTA at safeplay@usta.com within five (5) business days from receipt of the Safe Play Notice of Decision.  Absent good cause shown, appeals not emailed within five (5) business days are barred. Upon receiving a hearing request, the USTA will initiate an arbitration with the AAA.  The party who requests the hearing must pay a full deposit for all fees and expenses associated with the arbitration.  If the party fails to provide the requisite deposit, then the arbitration will not proceed.  If the Arbitrator denies the Safe Play Notice of Decision, the USTA will reimburse all arbitration fees and expenses paid to the arbitration body.  All arbitrations must be conducted in the City of New York, New York.  The AAA decision is final and binding.   

E.        Bad-Faith Allegations

 

Any individual who alleges misconduct under Safe Play that, upon review, is determined to be malicious, frivolous or made in bad faith will be a violation of Safe Play. Bad-faith reports may also be subject to criminal or civil action as well appropriate USTA sanctions.

 

Please be advised that this USTA Safe Play Policy is subject to change without notice at the sole discretion of the USTA.

 

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