A majority of USA Curling's diversity task force has called for the removal of Jeff Plush as the national governing body’s CEO, accusing him of failing to act when confronted with allegations of sexual abuse and other misconduct while serving as the commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League.
“He cannot be trusted to prioritize the safety and well-being of athletes in this organization,” the group said in a statement that was signed by 11 current and former members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. “We are concerned about the immediate safety of US curlers.”
According to an investigation by former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, Plush was aware of abuse allegations against Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley but did not do anything to prevent him from coaching in the league. The report also said Plush did not respond to requests for an interview as part of the investigation, which uncovered years of systemic emotional abuse and sexual misconduct.
USA Curling did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. The organization had previously released a statement saying an investigation found Plush “acted in accordance with prioritizing the safety of athletes.”
The USA Curling Athletes' Advisory Council issued a statement on Sunday saying it meets daily with the board and “work will continue in order to evaluate our position as things develop.”
“We are at the table, every single day, advocating to make curling a better and safer place for athletes to compete, commune, and thrive,” it said. “Our work in support of you will never be done. We encourage athletes of all abilities to reach out with any questions or concerns at any time, and we continue to look for ways to bring as many of your voices and experiences to light as we can.”
After Yates' report was released, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland sent a letter to staff that said the federation was in contact with USA Curling.
But the task force called upon Hirshland to remove Plush from the position he has held since 2020; failing that, it calls upon the USA Curling board of directors to resign. It also requested an investigation into how USA Curling has handled any abuse allegations during Plush’s tenure.
Finally, the task force asked the USA Curling board to release the results of the investigation that cleared Plush. “The full process, investigation results, and steps forward should be released to the USA Curling community to restore trust and transparency,” the task force members wrote.
The statement was signed by eight members of the 12-person task force and three former members; the four who did not sign were Plush and members of the USA Curling staff and board of directors. The statement also was posted online as a petition, and it had garnered more than 500 signatures.
“The collective response has eroded the trust of the curling community in the institutions charged to protect us,” the statement said.
According to the report into sexual misconduct in soccer, Thorns player Mana Shim informed Plush in 2015 about Riley’s advances, as well as his retaliation when she asked him to stop. Plush forwarded Shim’s email to U.S. Soccer, but the league took no action against Riley.
Since the report was released on Oct. 3, Riley, who denied the allegations, was fired as head coach of the North Carolina Courage; NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down; and Thorns and Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson stepped down as the teams' COO.
Riley, who denied the allegations, was fired as coach of the North Carolina Courage. NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down, and Thorns and Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson stepped down as the teams’ CEO.
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