Tarah Kayne details abuse allegations against sanctioned coach Sappenfield

Theatregirl1122

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Now that Tarah Kayne has courageously come forth with her account of abuse, the proper thing for Brennan to do is to run with the story and ask people who might have been witnesses whether they knew anything. Alexa Knierim says she did not, so let us take her at her word.

So your position is that it’s “creepy” to say that, with 11 current unknown victims who have reported to safesport and who knows how many who haven’t, it is possible that other students of Delilah’s are victims and they should therefore not be treated like fresh meat to be picked over by vultures? Okay…
 

Vagabond

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So your position is that it’s “creepy” to say that, with 11 current unknown victims who have reported to safesport and who knows how many who haven’t, it is possible that other students of Delilah’s are victims and they should therefore not be treated like fresh meat to be picked over by vultures? Okay…
Are you sure that the eleven others who reported to SafeSport are victims? Some have suggested in this thread that at least some of them were witnesses, not victims. (On the flip side, it would not surprise me if there are victims out there as to whom no report has been made.)

Regardless of how many unknown victims are out there, speculating about whether someone was a victim of abuse is gossip, and a particularly creepy form of it at that.
 
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okokok777

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Are you sure that the eleven others who reported to SafeSport are victims? It has been suggested that at least some of them were witnesses, not victims. (On the flip side, it would not surprise me if there are victims out there as to whom no report has been made.)

Regardless of how many unknown victims are out there, speculating about whether someone was a victim of abuse is gossip, and a particularly creepy form of it at that.

There are 12 claimants (SafeSport's version of victims/survivors). There are WAY more witnesses who've been interviewed as part of the SafeSport investigation. In the TSL conversation, there was a mention of ~60 witnesses who've been interviewed by the Center so far and that figure sounds about right based on conversations I've had with a couple of the claimants & witnesses.
 

mpal2

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Most people are not saying Alexa is definitely a victim and not trying to start gossip. We are trying to say that people should be careful in who they approach and how they approach them just in case because we know there are more. There are 11 more reports. I would rather err on not getting a witness story if it meant I had to trample over the emotions of the victims. And I already indicated that witnesses could be facing retaliation even if they weren't victims themselves. The entire history of US Figure skating tells us that. There are people who need to be questioned and those that need a freaking ounce of compassion and a little more leeway to drive the story on their terms instead of by ambush. Victims and witnesses deserve more privacy than the people in charge who failed to address problems.
 

misskarne

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It says a lot about the continual incompetence of USFS communications/PR staff that they apparently didn't anticipate the possibility of that kind of question, and prepare Alexa or Brandon with a response.

Either they're incompetent, or they think this story is going to go away, or they think that the media are only going to ask what they've been told to ask about. None of those are good things.
This is the same USFS that posted about cryptocurrency just after the Brennan article broke, then when they started getting comments about abuse closed replies to the tweet, then after reopening them actively removed replies on the instagram post.

It's almost comical how poorly they keep handling this.
 

skatingguy

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Larry Nassar was quietly relieved of his duties for USA Gymnastics in 2015, before the 2016 Indianapolis Star article about USA Gymnastics' general issues with covering up abuse complaints.

I think he was suspended from treating patients at MSU after the article.

So...asking questions at press conferences played absolutely no role in Larry being removed from treating patients.

Asking questions at press conferences is part of covering a story, particularly if the opportunity presents itself which with the types of athletes were talking about (gymnasts & figure skaters) doesn't come up that often. The media coverage did play a part in helping a lot of the victims to realize that they were in fact assaulted by Nassar, and the coverage encouraged many to come forward. The coverage in the Indianapolis Star started with 2 women.
 

stjeaskategym

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Agreed. It's really putting Alexa on the spot. What if she was abused herself or hasn't processed how she feels about everything? That could be very triggering especially on a zoom call with multiple journalists. It's a setup because it's such a sensitive topic that if she can't formulate the right response immediately she could be accused of enabling an abuser. Alexa handled it pretty well all things considered. I think if Brennan wanted a comment from Alexa on that issue, she should have reached out to her privately and then Alexa could either have time to compose her response or not comment. It's funny because Brennan was on TSL the other day heavily promoting how skaters should feel free to come to her and share their stories, how it will all be totally off the record and she would never do anything to make them feel uncomfortable or make them talk about it in public before they're ready.

I fully agree. I find it very upsetting that Christine Brennan put Alexa on the spot during a Skate America zoom chat today. I was even more upset when she implied that Alexa was a coach/mandatory reporter during her time with Dalilah when she was only a student. It feels like libel.

Given that Alexa went through her own rough breakup with Sappenfield, it's very possible she was a victim herself. Beyond that, Brennan was trying hard to get Alexa to say something scandalous and article-worthy, which clearly made her uncomfortable. Brennan should have contacted Alexa privately, but that wouldn't have given her the spontaneous juicy response she was hoping for. She may not be aware, but Alexa left Sappenfield 3.5 years ago and she never trained with Tarah Kayne.

Brennan's tweet was also terribly misleading. She referenced Alexa's coaching bio at Great Park Ice in California to try to imply that Alexa was in a position of power and is a mandatory reporter in Dalilah/Tarah's case, which isn't true at all. Alexa wasn't a coach in Colorado; she was merely a student under Dalilah. And again, she moved to California before Tarah even went to Dalilah. But the casual fans reading Brennan's words might not know that and might now link Alexa to Tarah's case, which is absurd. Brennan's actions today were frustrating and counterproductive in her alleged quest to support victims. She was trying entirely too hard to generate another story on Dalilah (with a higher profile skater this time), and all she ended up doing was try to smear Alexa's reputation for the sake of "journalism".

And no, Alexa was never asked if she was mandatory reporter in general (the fact that Alexa currently teaches a few lessons in California has zero relevance to Dalilah's ongoing case). She clearly was being asked a question about Sappenfield and if she had reported anything pertaining to her, and that is what she responded to. Again, she was just a student. The way Brennan also left Alexa's "um's" in her quote felt like a ridiculous attempt to try to make her seem guilty of something. Most people use words like "um" in their speech and take time to formulate a response to an uncommon question. Those "um's" usually get edited out in transcripts. It was clear Alexa was caught off guard by the questions.

Still, I thought Alexa handled it fine. She first voiced support and empathy towards Tarah. She mentioned that everyone's experiences and relationships are different, which is very true. Just because Tarah had an awful story to tell, doesn't mean Alexa has one to share with Brennan too, nor is she in the same position as Tarah because she's still very much tied to her sport. She then stated it's a private matter whether or not she spoke to SafeSport. Not the most eloquently worded, but again, she was caught off guard, and these types of questions shouldn't be asked in Skate America chats.

If you don't allow people to speak to SafeSport privately without having to publicly announce it to the world, they are going to stop doing so out of fear. If I was a current elite athlete, I would be scared to speak out about anything. Notice how most victims who come forward have no ties left to their sport. There is too much fear of consequences and retaliation. I highly doubt most current skaters want it to leak out that they spoke to SafeSport, nor should they be made to feel guilty if they have nothing to say to SafeSport.
 
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skatingguy

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I fully agree. I find it very upsetting that Christine Brennan put Alexa on the spot during a Skate America zoom chat today. I was even more upset when she implied that Alexa was a coach/mandatory reporter during her time with Dalilah when she was only a student. It feels like libel.

Given that Alexa went through her own rough breakup with Sappenfield, it's very possible she was a victim herself. Beyond that, Brennan was trying hard to get Alexa to say something scandalous and article-worthy, which clearly made her uncomfortable. Brennan should have contacted Alexa privately, but that wouldn't have given her the spontaneous juicy response she was hoping for. She may not be aware, but Alexa left Sappenfield 3.5 years ago and she never trained with Tarah Kayne.

Brennan's tweet was also terribly misleading. She referenced Alexa's coaching bio at Great Park Ice in California to try to imply that Alexa was in a position of power and is a mandatory reporter in Dalilah/Tarah's case, which isn't true at all. Alexa wasn't a coach in Colorado; she was merely a student under Dalilah. And again, she moved to California before Tarah even went to Dalilah. But the casual fans reading Brennan's words might not know that and might now link Alexa to Tarah's case, which is absurd. Brennan's actions today were frustrating and counterproductive in her alleged quest to support victims. She was trying entirely too hard to generate another story on Dalilah (with a higher profile skater this time), and all she ended up doing was try to smear Alexa's reputation for the sake of "journalism".

And no, Alexa was never asked if she was mandatory reporter in general (the fact that Alexa currently teaches a few lessons California has zero relevance to Dalilah's ongoing case). She clearly was being asked a question about Sappenfield and if she had reported anything pertaining to her, and that is what she responded to. The way Brennan also left Alexa's "ums" in her quote felt like a ridiculous attempt to try to make her seem guilty of something. Most people use words like "um" in their speech and take time to formulate a response to an uncommon question. Those "ums" usually get edited out in transcripts. It was clear Alexa was caught off guard by the questions.

Still, I thought Alexa handled it fine. She first voiced support and empathy towards Tarah. She mentioned that everyone's experiences and relationships are different, which is very true. Just because Tarah had an awful story to tell, doesn't mean Alexa has one to share with Brennan too, nor is she in the same position as Tarah because she's still very much tied to her sport. She then stated it's a private matter whether or not she spoke to SafeSport. Not the most eloquently worded, but again, she was caught off guard, and these types of questions shouldn't be asked in Skate America chats.

If you don't allow people to speak to SafeSport privately without having to publicly announce it to the world, they are going to stop doing so out of fear. If I was a current elite athlete, I would be scared to speak out about anything. Notice how most victims who come forward have no ties left to their sport. There is too much fear of consequences and retaliation. I highly doubt most current skaters want it to leak out that they spoke to SafeSport, nor should they be made to feel guilty if they have nothing to say to SafeSport.
I was trying to find a reasonable way to break down what you're saying here, but there's so much absolute nonsense that I just don't know where to start. Knierim, and the USFS absolutely knew the question was coming, and they almost certainly talked about what the answer was going to be. This is a press availability so the press is free to ask whatever questions they want to ask, and skaters are free to answer, or not, and the question that Brennan asked was not only an appropriate question to ask, it was the most obvious question and any journalist was going to ask. That the question was asked by Brennan speaks more to the fact that she has been reporting on this issue in figure skating, and other sports, for a number of years.
 

okokok777

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I fully agree. I find it very upsetting that Christine Brennan put Alexa on the spot during a Skate America zoom chat today. I was even more upset when she implied that Alexa was a coach/mandatory reporter when she was with Dalilah when she was only a student. It feels like libel.

I just want to point out that technically all Adult Participants are mandated reporters. That was actually one of the sweeping changes implemented by the Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017. It's specifically tied to suspected sexual misconduct and/or child abuse. The exception is that claimants themselves will not be penalized for not reporting their own abuse (this should be obvious but I'm actually glad that they included that language in the law & subsequent Codes).
 

once_upon

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I think it was very unfair and somewhat cruel to ask Alexa those questions. I know every reporter wants to be the first to break a story, but to blindside when Alexa was expecting the press conference to be about Skate America and upcoming season?

I suspect everyone in the CO Springs camp is trying to understand how they missed Tarah's pain/abuse. Even if they have also been a victim, maybe especially if they were a victim (like how did I miss the signs?). Most everyone I know who were the "golden child" feels guilt when the "scapegoats" discloses their abuse.
 

skatingguy

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This idea that some how Alexa Knierim didn't know these questions were coming is beyond absurd, and is part of this really disgusting infantilization of skaters that many fans engage in. The USFS, and Knierim will have absoluately been aware that the questions were coming, they almost certainly had a discussion in the lead up to the press conference where they would discuss the questions that were likely to be posed, and how Alexa would answer any questions regarding Sappenfield. I don't think there's anything specifically wrong with how she answered the question, but it wasn't the best answer, and I hope that when Alexa is ready she will talk any, and all relevant interactions with Sappenfield.
 

Willin

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This is the same USFS that posted about cryptocurrency just after the Brennan article broke, then when they started getting comments about abuse closed replies to the tweet, then after reopening them actively removed replies on the instagram post.

It's almost comical how poorly they keep handling this.
Well, who do you expect USFS to hire, actually competent PR people?

Seriously though USFS has a problem of hiring their own people (former skaters or skating parents with the right connections) rather than actual competent professionals in the field. It's most obvious in the PR department, but it happens elsewhere.
 

overedge

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@skatingguy USFS seems to have its head in the sand about this. It sent out an announcement that it now accepts donations by cryptocurrency on the day that the Kayne story broke, and then deleted responses to that announcement on social media that mentioned athlete abuse. Also, very few sports reporters write anything more out of these kind of media events other than, we have been training so hard, we're thrilled to skate for US fans, etc. etc.

I have no problem believing that the question wasn't anticipated and that USFS didn't prepare itself or the athletes for the question. That's not infantilizing Alexa - IMO she gave as good an answer as she could under the circumstances. It's a comment on USFS' incompetence and, once again, how it fails to truly support its athletes.
 

overedge

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I agree the Indianapolis Star did a really good job and reported long term in-depth coverage on the gymnastics issues and it was quite a bit more investigative work than asking questions at press conferences. Too bad that team of reporters doesn't want to relocate to Colorado Springs to provide the same for figure skating.

It blows my mind that (AFAIK anyway) no media outlet or reporter has done a deep dive into how Richard Callaghan was able to abuse so many skaters so badly for so long without any consequences.
 

stjeaskategym

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I was trying to find a reasonable way to break down what you're saying here, but there's so much absolute nonsense that I just don't know where to start. Knierim, and the USFS absolutely knew the question was coming, and they almost certainly talked about what the answer was going to be. This is a press availability so the press is free to ask whatever questions they want to ask, and skaters are free to answer, or not, and the question that Brennan asked was not only an appropriate question to ask, it was the most obvious question and any journalist was going to ask. That the question was asked by Brennan speaks more to the fact that she has been reporting on this issue in figure skating, and other sports, for a number of years.

You thought the most obvious question Alexa should be asked in front of several people during a Skate America Zoom call a week before Skate America was about an abuse case, when it's possible she might be a victim of the same abuser herself? Brennan should have asked her those questions privately if she really felt the need to. It's interesting that Brandon Frazier didn't receive any of those questions, when he probably spent nearly as many years with Dalilah as Alexa did.

Maybe it's possible USFS gave her guidance on what to say, but that doesn't necessarily make it much easier to respond when you have a journalist prodding you to spill dirt about a sensitive topic. Skaters are not like pro ball players who speak to the media every day and have prepared responses. USFS doesn't even want to speak about this themselves, so how do we know they're helping the skaters prepare responses? I thought her answer was fine and sincere.

I just want to point out that technically all Adult Participants are mandated reporters. That was actually one of the sweeping changes implemented by the Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017. It's specifically tied to suspected sexual misconduct and/or child abuse. The exception is that claimants themselves will not be penalized for not reporting their own abuse (this should be obvious but I'm actually glad that they included that language in the law & subsequent Codes).

That's news to me and probably a lot of other people, but good to know. Still, it was erroneous for Christine to imply Alexa was coaching and observing Dalilah's abuse when she was neither a coach nor a training mate of Tarah at the World Arena. That was my issue with Christine's tweet, that she was trying hard to link Alexa to the Tarah Kayne story she wrote. She implied that Alexa's non-answers regarding confidential SafeSport matters was somehow wrong. But that's the exact point of SafeSport, for people to feel safe coming forward privately without fear of repercussion.

A coach/overseer is much more likely to observe terrible misconduct in a rink than skaters who have tunnel vision and are very much focused on their own training. And coaches have authority over students, regardless of age, and athletes live in fear of their careers being destroyed, etc. Danny O'Shea literally stood by Tarah's side watching all of this go on and never reported it. He helped her glue her wrist together instead of taking her to the hospital. The fact that Alexa is being interviewed instead of someone who was literally watching it all unfold is strange. Christine let Danny prepare a response through text message. Why couldn't she have messaged Alexa privately as well?
 
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skatingguy

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@overedge if that's true that the USFS didn't speak to Knierim about the Sappenfield question before the press availability then someone, many people probably should be fired. It's inconceivable to me that they could be that myopic about an issue this important to the future of the organization, particularly after what's happened with USAG over the past few years, but I guess it should be because these organizations have demonstrated an inability to walk in a straight line or tie their shoes.

The infantilization of skaters that I see from fans, and some of the posts on this board is the idea that just asking Knierim about the issue with her former coach is somehow an attack on her. The idea that the issue shouldn't be talked about now when the sanctions just came down in early September & Tarah Kayne's allegations just became public in the past week because this press availability was about Skate America just makes me shake my head. This is one of just two significant US competitions this year that will be organized by the USFS that will attract enough attention from the general public, and to try & shut down the conversation because people just want to focus on the skating just makes me so angry. I don't think I'm expressing myself very well here. In general, I think a lot of people just don't want to hear about the issue of abuse in general, and skating in particular, and they take every opportunity to gate keep.
 

skatingguy

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You thought the most obvious question Alexa should be asked in front of several people during a Skate America Zoom call a week before Skate America was about an abuse case, when it's possible she might be a victim of the same abuser herself?
Yes. It was important to ask Knierim the question in public. It gave Knierim the chance to express her support for Tarah Kayne, and it gave her an opportunity to speak out if she had wanted to, and that's a part of this that you seem to be missing. This was an opportunity for Knierim if she had anything she wanted to say, and that's also the responsibility of good journalism.
Brennan should have asked her those questions privately if she really felt the need to.
This need to push this issue behind close doors because it makes you feel more comfortable is disgusting. Stop gate keeping.
It's interesting that Brandon Frazier didn't receive any of those questions, when he probably spent as many years with Dalilah as Alexa did.
I don't know all of Frazier's history as a skater. A quick look at his history seems to indicate that he and Haven Denney were with Sappenfield for the 2011/12 season. I'm sure someone else will be able to point to any other times that Frazier was with Sappenfield. Alexa Knierim, again as far as I can tell, was with Sappenfield from 2012 to 2018, and it was Sappenfield who paired her now husband with Chris Knierim. This suggests that Alexa Knierim's relationship with Sappenfield was much longer, more extensive, and more important to both her personal life, and her skating career.
Maybe it's possible USFS gave her guidance on what to say, but that doesn't necessarily make it much easier to respond when you have a journalist prodding you to spill dirt about a sensitive topic. Skaters are not like pro ball players who speak to the media every day and have prepared responses. USFS doesn't even want to speak about this themselves, so how do we know they're helping the skaters prepare responses? I thought her answer was fine and sincere.
I didn't have any problem with Alexa's response, I have problem with your response. Your need to gate keep the issue. Your need to discourage journalism on the subject of abuse in skating, and your infantilization of skaters.
That's news to me and probably a lot of other people, but good to know. Still, it was erroneous for Christine to imply Alexa was coaching and observing Dalilah's abuse when she was neither a coach nor a training mate of Tarah at the World Arena. That was my issue with Christine's tweet, that she was trying hard to link Alexa to the Tarah Kayne story she wrote. She implied that Alexa's non-answers regarding confidential SafeSport matters was somehow wrong. But that's the exact point of SafeSport, for people to feel safe coming forward privately without fear of repercussion.
Except Brennan's tweet does none of the things you say it does. It very simply lays out Knierim's current resume to provide context for the many people who will read this tweet & have no idea who Alexa Knierim is, because Brennan has a much larger audience as a reporter for USA Today than just the figure skating fan base.

In addition to being a national champion and Olympic team bronze medalist pairs skater, Alexa Knierim also is listed on the Great Park Ice website as a senior instructor, which likely means she is required to report abuse to the US Center for SafeSport. I asked her about that.
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stjeaskategym

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@overedge if that's true that the USFS didn't speak to Knierim about the Sappenfield question before the press availability then someone, many people probably should be fired. It's inconceivable to me that they could be that myopic about an issue this important to the future of the organization, particularly after what's happened with USAG over the past few years, but I guess it should be because these organizations have demonstrated an inability to walk in a straight line or tie their shoes.

The infantilization of skaters that I see from fans, and some of the posts on this board is the idea that just asking Knierim about the issue with her former coach is somehow an attack on her. The idea that the issue shouldn't be talked about now when the sanctions just came down in early September & Tarah Kayne's allegations just became public in the past week because this press availability was about Skate America just makes me shake my head. This is one of just two significant US competitions this year that will be organized by the USFS that will attract enough attention from the general public, and to try & shut down the conversation because people just want to focus on the skating just makes me so angry. I don't think I'm expressing myself very well here. In general, I think a lot of people just don't want to hear about the issue of abuse in general, and skating in particular, and they take every opportunity to gate keep.

I don't see fans trying to shut down conversations of abuse. We have 6 pages here about abuse. Christine Brennan has a phone, she can text anyone about abuse whenever she wants. She chose to ask the questions during a Skate America Zoom Call. If I'm recalling correctly- are you from Canada? Skating isn't as mainstream in the US. Skate America teleconferences usually last all of 10 or 15 minutes and consist of Lynn Rutherford asking how training is going. My guess is Brennan was trying to catch Alexa off guard. Otherwise it would have been easier to text her or call her privately.

To me it felt like Alexa was being attacked because Brennan didn't just innocently ask a question and accept Alexa's answer of- I support Tarah and my heart goes out to her. Everyone has different experiences, so I can't speak for her regarding her experience, or whatever exactly she said. Brennan continued to question her and implied that Alexa was doing something wrong by essentially saying "no comment" when we all know it's confidential who speaks to SafeSport. Brennan tweeted twice about Alexa today, the second time, she practically made it sound like Alexa was a coach of Tarah Kayne who was required to not only report the abuse she saw at the hands of Dalilah, but then also publicly inform everyone about what she reported. I wouldn't be surprised if casual followers interpreted her tweet that way. At the very least, they probably think Alexa trained with Tarah and saw her abuse. That was my main issue. Christine was trying to make a spectacle of Alexa's comments when she essentially said "I support Tarah. No comment regarding anything else". Christine wants a story, she doesn't care if Alexa is a possible abuse victim.
 
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skatingguy

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I don't see fans trying to shut down conversations of abuse. We have 6 pages here about abuse. Christine Brennan has a phone, she can text anyone about abuse whenever she wants. She chose to ask the questions during a Skate America Zoom Call. If I'm recalling correctly- are you from Canada? Skating isn't as mainstream in the US. Skate America teleconferences usually last all of 10 or 15 minutes and consist of Lynn Rutherford asking how training is going. My guess is Brennan was trying to catch Alexa off guard. Otherwise it would have been easier to text her or call her privately.
You claim you're not trying to shut down the conversation, but again you'd prefer if they didn't talk about it, and the second time in the past couple days that someone has suggested I shouldn't comment because I'm not an American, as if similar issues don't exist in all countries, or that I can't read or follow the American media as well as anyone in the US.
To me it felt like Alexa was being attacked because Brennan didn't just innocently ask a question and accept Alexa's answer of- I support Tarah and my heart goes out to her. Everyone has different experiences, so I can't speak for her regarding her experience, or whatever exactly she said. Brennan continued to question her and implied that Alexa was doing something wrong by essentially saying "no comment" when we all know it's confidential who speaks to SafeSport. Brennan tweeted twice about Alexa today, the second time, she practically made it sound like Alexa was a coach of Tarah Kayne who was required to not only report the abuse she saw at the hands of Dalilah, but then also inform Christine Brennan about what she reported. I wouldn't be surprised if any casual followers of Christine Brennan who don't follow figure skating interpreted her tweet that way. At the very least, they probably think Alexa trained with Tarah and saw her abuse. That was my issue. Christine was trying to make a spectacle of Alexa's comments when she essentially said "I support Tarah. No comment regarding anything else". Christine wants a story, she doesn't care if Alexa is a possible abuse victim.
When you attack the media for doing it's job, what you are saying is 'I don't want to hear about it, I don't want it talked about during skating events, and I wish it would all just go away'. This consistent criticism of Brennan, one of the only journalists in the US with a national profile, for covering this issue is an effort to shut down the discussion and the reporting. It's an effort to protect the abusers because exposing the abusers exposes the system that protects them & that puts the future of the sport in jeopardy.
 

Karen-W

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@skatingguy - as others have pointed out, the USFS' response to Brennan's story about Tarah Kayne has been unbelievably bad. They shut down critical comments on their cryptocurrency tweet/IG post and then, when they turned comments back on, they deleted the negative ones questioning what they were doing with regard to the Sappenfield matter. This is hardly the first time they've mishandled the public optics and press. So, I don't think it's correct to assume that their communications staff prepared any of the skaters for potential questions about Kayne from reporters during the pre-Skate America press conference. The USFS seems to have its head firmly buried in the sand but hopefully Brennan's questions will alert them to prepare all of their skaters who ever trained at the World Arena or had international assignments with Kayne/O'Shea for more of the same type of scrutiny.
 

skatingguy

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@skatingguy - as others have pointed out, the USFS' response to Brennan's story about Tarah Kayne has been unbelievably bad. They shut down critical comments on their cryptocurrency tweet/IG post and then, when they turned comments back on, they deleted the negative ones questioning what they were doing with regard to the Sappenfield matter. This is hardly the first time they've mishandled the public optics and press. So, I don't think it's correct to assume that their communications staff prepared any of the skaters for potential questions about Kayne from reporters during the pre-Skate America press conference. The USFS seems to have its head firmly buried in the sand but hopefully Brennan's questions will alert them to prepare all of their skaters who ever trained at the World Arena or had international assignments with Kayne/O'Shea for more of the same type of scrutiny.
That's very frustrating, and pathetic on the part of the USFS.
 

nlloyd

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I suspect everyone in the CO Springs camp is trying to understand how they missed Tarah's pain/abuse. Even if they have also been a victim, maybe especially if they were a victim (like how did I miss the signs?). Most everyone I know who were the "golden child" feels guilt when the "scapegoats" discloses their abuse.
This is one possible scenario, but to my mind it is more likely that other parents, coaches, skaters knew about Sappenfield's verbally abusive behavior and either 1) thought it was an acceptable price to pay for success, or 2) thought it was unacceptable, but feared speaking out lest it affect their childrens' or skaters' (in the case of other coaches) careers.

Sappenfield's alleged coercing of pairs skaters to have relationships with one another and her alleged enabling/overlooking male skaters' abusive sexual relationships, may not have been as well known, but there were likely rumors at the rink and some sense of what was happening before the allegations regarding Coughlin were made public. What is difficult to reconcile is, on the one hand, the type of behaviors evidenced by Coughlin and potentially Nyman also, and on the other, the rink culture. Did parents, coaches, and skaters simply ignore the odd mix of match-making, enabling/overlooking male skaters' sexually abusive behavior, and Christian piety that Sappenfield seemed to promote or did they actively support/encourage this approach? To what extent did it permeate the culture of the rink?
 

sadya

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When there is a chance that someone was also a victim of abuse, people should think about that traumatic possibility when they want to ask questions. Of course these things should be openly discussed and not hidden, but there is a way to do this without hurting possible victims.

Every victim deals with abuse in a different way and of course you have different types of abuse. Some victims go through their day by putting the traumatic events 'away' somewhere in their minds where they hope it won't effect their day to day routine, otherwise they can't function without breaking down. Questions like these can be triggering and damaging further. By giving a victim time for an interview specifically about the topic of abuse, if and when they are ready for it, they can prepare themselves mentally and in any other way they need to.

We don't know which other skaters were abused and how traumatic their experiences might have been. The reaction of other people to the abuse (not believing, making fun of the victim for being abused, sensationally staring and wanting to know the story for sensation only instead of telling their story to create understanding, etc) can continue damaging an abuse victim.

It isn't just fear of retaliation which makes it difficult to say something, it's also difficult to talk about. There are people who find even talking about abuse difficult, decades later. So please think about the feelings of the victims. Yes, report please, but with care when dealing with a sensitive topic like this.
 

MsZem

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I'm very uncomfortable with judging Alexa Knierim's reaction to Brennan's questions, for reasons given by others already (she may have been a victim herself, and even if not, this is a lot to process). The responsibility for what happened lies with Sappenfield, and even if Alexa is more readily available, there's no indication that she played a role in the abuse or supported Sappenfield's behavior in any way. It's okay for her to say that she supports the victim while noting that her own experience was different - which explains to some extent why she may not have been fully aware of what happened to Tarah.
 

stjeaskategym

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1,373
Yes. It was important to ask Knierim the question in public. It gave Knierim the chance to express her support for Tarah Kayne, and it gave her an opportunity to speak out if she had wanted to, and that's a part of this that you seem to be missing. This was an opportunity for Knierim if she had anything she wanted to say, and that's also the responsibility of good journalism.

This need to push this issue behind close doors because it makes you feel more comfortable is disgusting. Stop gate keeping.

Please don't put words in my mouth. I didn't say to push this issue behind closed doors. I said to call Alexa privately to see if she wants to speak out publicly- you don't have to ask her about it in front of whoever is on those Skate America Zoom calls. As if Alexa was going to provide any sensitive information about Dalilah on that call. Brennan could have easily texted Alexa days ago like she did with Danny O'Shea. My guess is she thought she could get more out of Alexa if she asked her on that call, where she might feel a little more rattled than if she was just answering a text. But Alexa stayed clear of saying anything controversial.

Brennan's claim about how she allows people to speak to her off the record until they feel comfortable enough to go public with sensitive information feels more phony now. With at least 12 known victims, to automatically assume Alexa couldn't possibly be one herself is strange. It makes me believe Brennan doesn't care as much about victims as she claims. She's trying to write juicy stories, which is her job and I get it. But don't pretend you have all this concern for possible victims.

I don't know all of Frazier's history as a skater. A quick look at his history seems to indicate that he and Haven Denney were with Sappenfield for the 2011/12 season. I'm sure someone else will be able to point to any other times that Frazier was with Sappenfield. Alexa Knierim, again as far as I can tell, was with Sappenfield from 2012 to 2018, and it was Sappenfield who paired her now husband with Chris Knierim. This suggests that Alexa Knierim's relationship with Sappenfield was much longer, more extensive, and more important to both her personal life, and her skating career.

Frazier was with Dalilah with two different partners, I can't remember the exact dates because he and Denney went back and forth between coaches often, but I believe he was there at least 3 years. He was there through the Yankowskas/Coughlin era, Alexa missed that part. Really, Alexa isn't any more relevant to the topic of Tarah Kayne's abuse than Brandon. Neither of them were there. Neither of them have been with Dalilah in years and have very much moved on. You're right that Alexa had more of an extensive relationship with Dalilah. But for the most part they were coach and student, like anyone else. She also seems to have had a more acrimonious split with Dalilah than Brandon/Haven did. But she doesn't want to talk about it publicly, which is perfectly fine. At this point we are talking more about Alexa than Tarah's own partner, which makes no sense, because he was actually there.


I didn't have any problem with Alexa's response, I have problem with your response. Your need to gate keep the issue. Your need to discourage journalism on the subject of abuse in skating, and your infantilization of skaters.

Again, I didn't ever say that journalism shouldn't report on abuse. And I don't call skaters infants. I support good journalism that shows respect towards the subjects they interview. Journalists shouldn't pressure skaters to tell them what they did or did not tell SafeSport; that defeats the purpose of SafeSport. Nobody is going to come forward with anything if they can't trust that their comments, or the fact that they spoke to SafeSport at all, will remain confidential. I got the impression that Brennan wanted to make Alexa look bad/guity for not revealing anything to her about Dalilah. She made sure she left Alexa's "um's" in that transcript to give off the impression Alexa was hiding something. She searched the internet to see if Alexa coaches so that she could make it seem as if Alexa was in some position of authority where she could have reported all of Dalilah's abuse. If you think that's good journalism, great. In my opinion it detracts from Brennan's good work on reporting abuse rather than enhancing it.


Except Brennan's tweet does none of the things you say it does. It very simply lays out Knierim's current resume to provide context for the many people who will read this tweet & have no idea who Alexa Knierim is, because Brennan has a much larger audience as a reporter for USA Today than just the figure skating fan base.


FBcXTq2WYAg-AJO

No, Brennan didn't lay out Alexa's resume. She didn't even mention that Alexa is actually a current skater. She called her a "Senior coach" as if she's Frank Carroll instead of a skater who coaches a few lessons when she's not training. Brennan focused on Alexa's side coaching job instead of the fact that she's a skater to make it sound like she was a coach at Dalilah's rink and was avoiding mentioning that she was responsible for reporting all this abuse. That is how a casual fan might interpret that. No effort was made to clarify that Alexa wasn't a coach in Colorado, hasn't skated there in years, never trained with Tarah, doesn't have anything to do with what Tarah went through, doesn't have anything to do with Dalilah being abusive, and isn't the problem here. Yet some people are over-analyzing Alexa's comments (which basically were No comment). Why are we lashing out at skaters who aren't even involved instead of abusive coaches.
 
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stjeaskategym

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You claim you're not trying to shut down the conversation, but again you'd prefer if they didn't talk about it, and the second time in the past couple days that someone has suggested I shouldn't comment because I'm not an American, as if similar issues don't exist in all countries, or that I can't read or follow the American media as well as anyone in the US.

I just don't like blaming skaters for abusive coaches, as if Alexa should have stopped Dalilah or something. As if Alexa was supposed to know what was happening in Colorado with Tarah while she lives in California (in a healthy environment, fortunately). As if Alexa is contributing to abuse culture because she's likely terrified to say anything about Sappenfield's case publicly (any skater in her position would be). I'm not trying to shut down anything other than unwarranted criticism towards skaters. I didn't like how Christine Brennan treated Alexa today, and it's okay if you disagree.

When you attack the media for doing it's job, what you are saying is 'I don't want to hear about it, I don't want it talked about during skating events, and I wish it would all just go away'. This consistent criticism of Brennan, one of the only journalists in the US with a national profile, for covering this issue is an effort to shut down the discussion and the reporting. It's an effort to protect the abusers because exposing the abusers exposes the system that protects them & that puts the future of the sport in jeopardy.

Brennan could have tried to interview Danny O'Shea, Dalilah's relatives, Dalilah's son/fellow coach, the dozens of skaters who shared the ice in training with Tarah Kayne, World Arena parents who sit at the rink all day, other World Arena coaches, Monument skaters, Monument coaches, the skaters who abruptly quit skating, literally anyone who has spoken to Dalilah in recent memory which is definitely not Alexa. But instead Brennan interviews Alexa, because she's a higher profile name and an easy target because she was available for a SA Zoom call.

I don't have a problem with Brennan asking Alexa questions about it, it's that she only asked Alexa questions because she wanted a scandalous response. And she thinks a Zoom call with a bunch of people is a comfortable place for someone to open up about abuse. And she got on Alexa for giving no comment about whether she talked to SafeSport, which is supposed to be a private matter unless the person feels comfortable coming forward (which no active skater would be). It was upsetting, especially given that Alexa likely didn't walk away unscathed from Sappenfield either. We just have different opinions on good vs shoddy journalism. I have a lot of respect for Brennan, which is why it's disappointing when she resorts to stuff like this for the sake of a story. If you read her tweets very literally, I could see how they seemed innocent enough, but I could tell exactly what she was trying to do, she was trying to stir the pot. Alexa's answers were very appropriate given the circumstances.
 
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MsZem

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Except Brennan's tweet does none of the things you say it does. It very simply lays out Knierim's current resume to provide context for the many people who will read this tweet & have no idea who Alexa Knierim is, because Brennan has a much larger audience as a reporter for USA Today than just the figure skating fan base.


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When I work with students on developing research questionnaires, I emphasize that you should not ask two different things in a single closed question (yes/no, scale of 1-5 etc.) because it's confusing to answer. The way the question is phrased sounds as though Brennan is asking whether Alexa Knierim is a mandatory reported with respect to Sappenfield, which was not the case. I can easily understand her not wanting to comment on Sappenfield beyond stating her support for Tarah Kayne.

The reference to her being a senior instructor is a bit misleading as to what that means; basically all the top skaters affiliated with that rink are listed as senior instructors.
 

Frau Muller

From Puerto Rico, via Russia - to the World!
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15,116
Simple question:
Where is T.J. Nyman in this story? I thought that he was Dalilah’s partner in much of this (not nec’ly the Kayne episodes). Or is TJ still being investigated separately by SafeSport, with, presumably, separate sanctions forthcoming?
 

skatingguy

Golden Team
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9,935
When I work with students on developing research questionnaires, I emphasize that you should not ask two different things in a single closed question (yes/no, scale of 1-5 etc.) because it's confusing to answer. The way the question is phrased sounds as though Brennan is asking whether Alexa Knierim is a mandatory reported with respect to Sappenfield, which was not the case. I can easily understand her not wanting to comment on Sappenfield beyond stating her support for Tarah Kayne.

The reference to her being a senior instructor is a bit misleading as to what that means; basically all the top skaters affiliated with that rink are listed as senior instructors.
I can see what you're saying. I think that issue speaks to the nature of press conferences where reporters are usually given one question, and one follow to try & get an answer, and so they pack content into the question, and the questioned can then pick the part, or parts they want to answer.
 

PRlady

Well-Known Member
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37,605
Well, who do you expect USFS to hire, actually competent PR people?

Seriously though USFS has a problem of hiring their own people (former skaters or skating parents with the right connections) rather than actual competent professionals in the field. It's most obvious in the PR department, but it happens elsewhere.
And honestly not a lot of good Comms people want to live in CO Springs.
 

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