Editor’s note: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh has told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee he loves coaching his daughters’ girls basketball teams, but said in testimony Thursday “thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to coach again.” The intent of this commentary was to address that question. The column was re-edited to more closely reflect that intent and labeled to reflect it as the writer’s opinion.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testified the other day that he might never coach girls’ basketball again.
“I love coaching more than anything I’ve ever done in my whole life,” Kavanaugh said in his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. “But thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to coach again.”
He just might be right. Oh, not the part about blaming Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee – that’s just to avoid placing blame on his wholly sympathetic accuser – but the may-never-coach-again part. The nation is newly vigilant on who coaches and trains its children given recent scandals in gymnastics and other sports.
Turns out, though, Kavanaugh is free to continue coaching in the Catholic Youth Organization and his daughters’ private school in Washington, according to Edward McFadden, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington. He said a coach accused of sexual misconduct would have to go through the full legal process and be convicted before being banned.
McFadden told USA TODAY Sports’ A.J. Perez on Friday that “adult volunteers with extensive contact with children” go through fingerprinting, criminal background checks and training under what is called the VIRTUS program.
“The person is VIRTUS-trained,” McFadden said of Kavanaugh, “and has gone through a background check, which was clean.”
Besides, McFadden said he thinks Kavanaugh’s reference to not being able to coach again is related to protesters who shout down political figures in restaurants and other public spaces.
“It may be impossible for him to coach,” McFadden said. “Imagine being in a public gym where people could come in and be disrupting. I’m not sure he was referring to the claim (of sexual misconduct), but the overall environment. He has no record and has no criminal background. He’s gone through the (training) process. He can coach.”
But should he? The U.S. Center for SafeSport was established in 2017 to investigate misconduct claims in the U.S. Olympic movement. It does not cover youth sports such as the CYO. But its policies are nevertheless instructive.
Dan Hill, a spokesperson for SafeSport, said a credible allegation of sexual abuse by a coach covered under SafeSport could well lead to an investigation, even where there are no formal charges brought by law enforcement. He said the burden of proof in such cases is the civil standard of more likely than not, rather than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Hill did not comment on Kavanaugh specifically but more generally about cases with facts similar to Kavanaugh’s circumstance. Hill said decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. And he said there is no statute of limitations.
The nation is deeply divided. Sometimes it feels like we don’t agree on anything anymore. But credibly accused sex offenders should not coach youth basketball, girls or boys, without deeper investigation. Can’t we all agree on that?