USA Wrestling will require media members seeking to cover federation-sponsored events to undergo a background check, which is believed to be the first such requirement of its kind for a governing body in the U.S.
The federation announced the move Monday, saying it was designed to increase safety in the sport. The requirements include a mandatory hour-long U.S. Center for Safe Sports online video and will go into effect immediately.
The federation’s statement on Monday made no mention of Larry Nassar, the disgraced former USA Gymnastics national team doctor now serving decades in prison for molesting women and girls and for possessing child pornography. But it did say that the organization “has and will continue to inform adults affiliated with USA Wrestling about their responsibilities for mandatory reporting of suspected abuse.”
USA Wrestling said the online video and background check – which had been long been required of national staff, coaches, referees, medical personnel and other officials – is part of an effort to create a national system for media accreditation that protects its athletes, including both children and adults, from any form of abuse.
In addition to senior-level tournaments, USA Wrestling also governs boys’ events for six divisions of athletes under the age of 18.
The new procedures will be used for the first time for next week’s U.S. Open in Las Vegas.
Jason Bryant, the president of the National Wrestling Media Association, told The Associated Press he believes that the NWMA will ultimately endorse the new policies.
Bryant noted the majority of USA Wrestling events are for kids and that, as a smaller sport, most wrestling events outside of the Olympics and world championships are covered largely by niche publications who might not vet their staffers the way a large newspaper or TV station might. Bryant, who writes for mattalkonline.com, a wrestling publication, and has served as an announcer at events including the recent World Cup in Iowa City, said USA Wrestling isn’t charging media members anything for the background check.
“If it’s something that going to help somebody keep their eyes open and say, `Who’s that guy?’ (it’ll help),” said Bryant, who put himself through the new procedure on Monday so he could be more informed about the topic. “I think it’s a big deal, but I don’t view this as a negative.”
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