Tarah Kayne details abuse allegations against sanctioned coach Sappenfield

haribobo

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Whether Alexa (and Brandon, Chris, Caydee, Rockne, etc) speak out now or later, the right thing to do in the eyes of history is to admit there was terrible stuff going on there for years and years. Fine if Alexa was "caught off guard" this time but waiting until Dalilah is permanently banned to speak out is kinda too late. Still a huge amount of the blame goes to USFS, and with some of these skaters coaching I am sure the most convenient thing to do is to say nothing. But all the kudos in the world to Tarah for finally saying what we all kinda knew was going on. This "my relationship was different" from Alexa is not sufficient to say but I'm sure she's been advised by whoever to sidestep it for now. The currently competing skaters are not usually the ones who will break the news. The pressure to say and do the right thing becomes enormous whether you speak out or not. I envy none of them. Only Simone Biles comes to mind for athletes who spoke out publicly about abuse and continued to compete in their sport, although I'm sure there have been others. Naomi Osaka is another who is advocating for change in her sport.

Its an icky situation. We can debate it til the cows come home whether Christine should have asked that at that time in that setting. We kinda know anyone who hasn't spoken up isn't going to suddenly do it at a Skate America press conference. But it does make you think, what do I stand for, and how will I handle this question in the future, and is that ok? Is it really supporting Tarah and the many other victims to basically say the equivalent of "thoughts and prayers?" To me, no, its not enough. The people that should be getting grilled more than our current skaters are definitely the mandatory reporters at the rink (other coaches) and USFS officials. I dearly hope there is some kind of actual punishment for inaction and changes being implemented to prevent another Dalilah or Richard Callaghan or Maggie Haney or Peter Oppegard. Inexcusable truly.
 
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attyfan

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IMO, if Brennan wants to encourage skaters to speak out, giving a false implication that Alexa was a mandatory reporter at a time when she was not is not going to help. Also, it is not uncommon for witnesses to be unwilling to discuss in public information disclosed to the appropriate authorities. Many have picked up (sometimes from a TV show or something) the idea that they shouldn't. After all if witness A corroborates somethings said by witness B, without knowing what witness B said, it is more substantial support than if witness A knew what witness B said.
 

Karen-W

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I just want to point out that Alexa being a coach is not something you have to look very far to discover/learn on the internet. I follow her on IG and can see that she also coaches just from her own posts and stories. It isn't as though Brennan would have needed to do much to 1) know that she is coaching, and 2) verify what her current title is at GPI. Stop acting like Brennan has committed some unpardonable sin in her questioning of Alexa with regard to Sappenfield or any additional allegations.

We also don't know if Brennan has been trying to reach Alexa for comment prior to the press conference. There are a lot of unknowns and it bothers me, a lot, that there is so much conjecture and speculation going on about what Alexa witnessed or didn't witness with regard to Sappenfield abuse of ANY skaters, whether or not she is a victim herself, her personal relationship with Sappenfield, etc. The bottom line is that, in this day and age, with an ongoing story like the Sappenfield one, both Alexa AND the USFS comms team should have anticipated this line of questioning, and maybe they did, and maybe Brennan has some anonymous sourcing that pointed her in Alexa's direction (for any number of reasons). If some of you are so bothered that Brennan only directed her questions toward Alexa and not also Brandon, who was coached by Sappenfield in the past as well, then challenge Brennan on Twitter instead of criticizing it in this discussion. Superficially, at least, it is problematic reporting on her part but, again, she could have some anonymous sourcing pointing her in Alexa's direction but not Brandon's for a reason.
 
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Theatregirl1122

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This "my relationship was different" from Alexa is not sufficient to say but I'm sure she's been advised by whoever to sidestep it for now.

What did you expect her to say? I really want to know. She said that she supports and believes Tarah. Is she supposed to say that she has direct knowledge if she doesn't? The truth is that abusers don't abuse everyone they come across.


Also, the pretzel logic that leads someone in this thread to decide that people who don't think that women being ambushed at press conferences to answer for the actions of the coaches and organizations who should have protected all skaters is the same as wanting all abuse to be swept under the rug is honestly wild. There are people who should answer for what happened to Tarah. I don't want it swept under the rug and most of FSU has been very vocal about not wanting abuse in this sport to thrive in silence, so people can get off their high horse. It's not hard to figure out who the appropriate targets are, and it's not currently competing athletes, it's Delilah, USFSA, and other people in positions of power at World Arena and USOPC. If you can't get access to the people who should take responsibility, that doesn't mean you get to force responsibility onto those who have no responsibility. What kind of person does that make you if you do?

Dropping gotcha questions onto female athletes in 15 minute pre-event press conferences doesn't make someone some kind of hero. It makes them look untrustworthy and like someone who isn't on the side of athletes and is only on the side of getting a story at any cost.
 

haribobo

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In this instance I didn't expect her to say different, I just mean, in the long run, she should say more, and this statement isn't really sufficient as a final word...it seems pretty likely that most people at the rink knew about John and TJ and Dalilah doing untoward things, at least after the fact...and to stay with a coach who for years supports the males and shames the females is ridiculous...are we to believe that Sarah Feng, Caitlin Yankowskas, Mary Beth Marley, Keauna M, Nadya Labazina, Brynne McIsaac were not told to get lost or thrown in the trash or in some way disrespected by Dalilah? I'm sure I'm forgetting many others. If Alexa and Chris were not in love/engaged/married through their career and when Alexa has her big health problem, its very possible Dalilah would dump Alexa then too. The impression I think is that Alexa/Chris were her golden couple but even THEY couldn't deny they needed to get the heck outta there at some point. So it seems that they know something, yes.

And when you are a minor its totally understandable to stay quiet, but as a 30 year old person it's kind of time to take a stand against injustice at some point. And maybe privately she has helped. None of this is Alexa's "fault" and the questioning here absolutely could have been done more tactfully at least. Personally if I'm a reporter I am not asking this question at this juncture, seems to be not setting the stage to get the kind of answer you would want. My guess is that Christine reached out to Alexa previously and was denied an interview and maybe a little salty and thus she shot this question out here. Just a hunch...

I do think whatever heat directed at skaters for not speaking up shouldn't solely be focused on Alexa, but she was there for a lot of the mess...so its kind of silly to think she doesn't know anything at all about DS. Maybe not about the Tarah situation as much but the other stuff....She doesn't stand to gain anything beyond peace of mind by speaking up right now...but yea. I'm sure she at least would prefer to wait til her career is over. But some USFS ppl need to be fired over this.
 
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sadya

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It's already difficult for victims to speak out while competing, they often get the blame when they speak out later, people start victim blaming. It's not a lot easier for other skaters who are still competing to speak out while competing either, they get in trouble for both speaking up and not speaking up, and sometimes they don't even know what's going on, yet still get blamed.The people I do really blame are the other coaches at the rink, parents, etc.

And I wonder is, is it possible in the US to tell the authorities about abuse without giving your name? If so, then more people had the chance to stop the abuse sooner.
 

Theoreticalgirl

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I don't see how Brennan doesn't ask the question of Alexa Knierim in that press availability, and if it wasn't Brennan it would have been the next reporter. I would think that the USFS had know that the question was coming, and they gave Brennan the chance to ask first because of her history on the story.

100% agreed.

Speaking as a person with a journalism background who has worked in public relations/marketing and has experience with crisis communications:

It was perfectly within Brennan's right to ask this question to Alexa Knierim. This is markedly different than if Brennan had shown up on AK's doorstep to ask the same question.

If USFS had asked reporters to submit questions in advance, intentionally choose to not invite a reporter, or not hold any kind of media event at all—that would be a form of information control. This would be incredibly disconcerting to me if it was my beat.

USFS ain't stupid. They are fully aware of the story. Anticipating the kinds of questions that could be asked and preparing their skaters to make appropriate statements is all they can do. This is someone's actual job in their organization.

Having a press conference, letting the reporters ask the questions, and the skaters respond: This is what a free press looks like. And journalists should be asking questions. Full stop.
 

PRlady

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Agreed, but Comms people can try to protect the organization with ground rules. It’s a negotiation. If reporters can’t deal with the rules of an availabity, they get shut down.

I’ve defended Brennan for years as a good journalist. But Alexa has rights as well, including not having to answer difficult questions in a public forum. I would defend her and her sphere of privacy if I were representing USFS.
 

Theoreticalgirl

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@PRlady I agree completely. USFS could have recommended that she respond with "No comment." What AK said now opens up a whole 'nother can of worms that the Comms Team needs to strategize.

(ETA: Just to clarify, this is not a defense of the USFS Marketing & Comms. Between failing to prepare them for this and their mishandling of comments on social, I think whatever strategy they're going with right now is kinda bad!)
 
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Vagabond

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IMO, if Brennan wants to encourage skaters to speak out, giving a false implication that Alexa was a mandatory reporter at a time when she was not is not going to help.
I don't know the specific requirements for SafeSport, but I do know that under California law, for example, a mandatory reporter must report historic abuse, even if it happened decades ago, before the reporter was even born, let alone became a mandatory reporter. It would not surprise me if the same held true for SafeSport and that both Christine Brennan and Alexa Knierim know as much.
 

Coco

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Asking about the situation is one thing, and I agree the reporter had to ask it and should have asked it.

Asking if she (Alexa) was a mandatory reporter and if she'd talked to SafeSport about Dalilah is a whole other kettle of fish.

I mean, it appears to be the foundation for attacking Alexa.
 

overedge

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@stjeaskategym You have no way of knowing why Brennan asked that question. She's a reporter. Reporters ask tough questions sometimes. And every good reporter knows that if they ask too many questions just for the sake of scandal and soundbites, they might lose access to a source or sources of reliable information.

Maybe instead of "stirring the pot" she was following up on an important news story that shouldn't be allowed to drift out of public attention.
 

Vagabond

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I think asking Knierim whether she was a mandatory reporter was perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, Knierim's response that she preferred to keep her status "quite personal and private" is shocking and unconscionable. (Whether she has ever reported anything to SafeSport is personal and private, but her status is not.)
 
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Tesla

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I think asking Knierim whether she was a mandatory reporter was perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, Knierim's response, that she preferred to keep her status "quite personal and private" is shocking and unconscionable. (Whether she has ever reported anything to SafeSport is personal and private, but her status is not.)
I disagree. I think Alexa's response was to the second part of the question. Not about being a mandatory reporter.
 

Vagabond

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She didn't say her status was personal and private. She said "that stuff" -- presumably, whether she had spoken to SafeSport -- was personal and private.
The question was about her status, not about whether she had filed a report. The proper response would be either yes or no, but inasmuch as she apparently is a mandatory reporter, she should have said yes. She could have added that she wasn't going to answer questions about whether she made any mandated reports, but she chose not to. You are putting words in her mouth.
 

Tesla

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The question was about her status, not about whether she had filed a report. The proper response would be either yes or no, but inasmuch as she apparently is a mandatory reporter, she should have said yes. She could have added that she wasn't going to answer questions about whether she made any mandated reports, but she chose not to. You are putting words in her mouth.
This is the question she answered ". . . and have you talked to SafeSport about Dalilah?" She may have missed the first part of the question or she figured that the answer ("yes") was obvious and focused on the second part.
 
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millyskate

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What did you expect her to say? I really want to know. She said that she supports and believes Tarah. Is she supposed to say that she has direct knowledge if she doesn't? The truth is that abusers don't abuse everyone they come across.


Also, the pretzel logic that leads someone in this thread to decide that people who don't think that women being ambushed at press conferences to answer for the actions of the coaches and organizations who should have protected all skaters is the same as wanting all abuse to be swept under the rug is honestly wild. There are people who should answer for what happened to Tarah. I don't want it swept under the rug and most of FSU has been very vocal about not wanting abuse in this sport to thrive in silence, so people can get off their high horse. It's not hard to figure out who the appropriate targets are, and it's not currently competing athletes, it's Delilah, USFSA, and other people in positions of power at World Arena and USOPC. If you can't get access to the people who should take responsibility, that doesn't mean you get to force responsibility onto those who have no responsibility. What kind of person does that make you if you do?

Dropping gotcha questions onto female athletes in 15 minute pre-event press conferences doesn't make someone some kind of hero. It makes them look untrustworthy and like someone who isn't on the side of athletes and is only on the side of getting a story at any cost.
Yes, yes, yes.
 

Willin

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Some may have missed it, but I'm quite certain that others were quite aware of what was going on. Kayne was not being taught on private ice, so there must have been witnesses, even if only a few.
This is exactly why I want Christine Brennan to reach out to the coaches at the World Arena. They are certainly mandated reporters (as opposed to the more gray area of other skaters) and there's no evidence that they reported it. And I'm certain they heard something given some videos from the World Arena show the coaches standing near each other at the boards while coaching.


As far as asking Alexa the question, I'm sure USFS could've anticipated this question and I'm more than sure they know Alexa isn't great at media availability about big issues (eg. the Pyeongchang incident). It would have been smart for them to tell her to say "no comment" or to have a PR person step in and redirect to another reporter (as you see on occasion in response to some questions at NBA/NFL press conferences). Even her second response is better than her first. As I said earlier, her first response probably had no ill will, but it was worded poorly. Her second response was also worded poorly but was more along the lines of "that's a private matter," which I would take as an acceptable way to say "no comment."

I think Brennan had a right to ask the question. As she made clear on TSL, she's proud of the journalism career she's had, but now sees it as her crusade to reveal the widespread problem of abuse in figure skating - and props to her for taking that up. It needs to be done.
Some here are saying it was inappropriate to ask the question for various reasons, but I don't think that's the real issue. I think the issue is that we (and USFS) have infantalized these skaters and expect things to be pretty and perfect in press conferences. And yet you see that in other sports - and even other countries with figure skaters - athletes are asked much tougher questions and expected to discuss much tougher issues all the time. It's normal and expected. Christine doesn't only cover figure skating and I'm sure she's seen this sort of thing asked of athletes in other sports, so she sees it as appropriate to ask at any sports press conference.
 

clairecloutier

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The question was about her status, not about whether she had filed a report. The proper response would be either yes or no, but inasmuch as she apparently is a mandatory reporter, she should have said yes. She could have added that she wasn't going to answer questions about whether she made any mandated reports, but she chose not to. You are putting words in her mouth.

It was a double question--two questions--asked in one sentence.

"Are you a mandatory reporter (to the U.S. Center for Safe Sport) and have you talked to SafeSport about Dalilah?"


Question 1. Are you a mandatory reporter?

Question 2. Have you talked to Safe Sport about Dalilah? (This could potentially be a) as a mandatory reporter, b) as a victim/plaintiff, c) both)


Brennan may have meant to ask if Knierim had talked to SafeSport in her capacity as a mandated reporter. But that wasn't the exact phrasing of the question. And so yes, Knierim could have been responding to just the second half of the question.
 
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overedge

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^^^And this is a good example of why the "one topic, one question" guideline is important. Although sometimes reporters ask two or more questions at once because they're not sure they'll get a chance to ask another question.
 

overedge

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This is exactly why I want Christine Brennan to reach out to the coaches at the World Arena. They are certainly mandated reporters (as opposed to the more gray area of other skaters) and there's no evidence that they reported it. And I'm certain they heard something given some videos from the World Arena show the coaches standing near each other at the boards while coaching.

I was wondering about this, though. Not to excuse these coaches if they did see something and not report it, but how would they know e.g. if Sappenfield had ordered Kayne not to speak during training? All they might notice is Tarah being quiet and listening to the instructions that the team were being given. And from Brennan's story it sounded like a lot of the other bad behaviour from Sappenfield, like quizzing Kayne about her love life, took place off the ice or on the phone. Ice rinks are gossipy places, for sure, but Sappenfield might have been really good at hiding or toning down her abuse when other coaches were around.

It doesn't sound like e.g. when Richard Callaghan yelled at skaters that they were fat, slow, or stupid, and did it loudly enough that the entire rink could hear.
 

Mayra

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It's 2021 and we are still tiptoeing over asking questions on who knew what and when? Why are we still hesitant to break the glass on the culture of abuse within the skating community? Insane.

Is Alexa is entitled to her PC, make no waves answer? Sure. Personally though, I'm glad that Christine is going out and doing actual reporting on this issue and questioning those who may have observed or witnessed that abuse, and those who may be the perpetrators.

The skating world is small and the kind of abuse that Tarah is describing does not sound like it was perpetrated in secret. Sappenfield involved other skaters to bully and harass Tarah. It's sickening and if we are all honest here, nobody is surprised by these allegations. How sad is that?

The secrecy and fear of speaking out is how coaches like Richard Callaghan thrived in this sport. The lack of transparency within the USFS is vomit inducing.
 

mpal2

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At what point did it become acceptable to demand that someone subject to the authority of an abusive organization publicly talk about abuse they might have seen or experienced to news reporters? There are several reasons why people wait to speak until they have left the environment and it's not our place to demand the timing. And many never go public. Is it just because Alexa is the center of this conversation? Are all of you really that comfortable demanding public answers from anyone in a similar situation in any organization? I don't think we are infantilizing anyone by recognizing that this is a difficult subject to speak on and we can't always know who is trapped or who is having private discussions with people responsible for correcting the situation. Many recognized how brave Tarah was for speaking out because so many can't. There is a really gray murky area for this level of questioning.

We have a right to demand accountability from the people in charge always. They deserve every uncomfortable question and continued scrutiny. I have no problem with a reporter asking them what they are doing to prevent abuses at any time or place.

As said before and can't be repeated enough:

Also, the pretzel logic that leads someone in this thread to decide that people who don't think that women being ambushed at press conferences to answer for the actions of the coaches and organizations who should have protected all skaters is the same as wanting all abuse to be swept under the rug is honestly wild. There are people who should answer for what happened to Tarah. I don't want it swept under the rug and most of FSU has been very vocal about not wanting abuse in this sport to thrive in silence, so people can get off their high horse. It's not hard to figure out who the appropriate targets are, and it's not currently competing athletes, it's Delilah, USFSA, and other people in positions of power at World Arena and USOPC. If you can't get access to the people who should take responsibility, that doesn't mean you get to force responsibility onto those who have no responsibility. What kind of person does that make you if you do?

Dropping gotcha questions onto female athletes in 15 minute pre-event press conferences doesn't make someone some kind of hero. It makes them look untrustworthy and like someone who isn't on the side of athletes and is only on the side of getting a story at any cost.
I am stunned that this is a debate.

You may call it infantilizing athletes but I think someone needs to be a little protective of them if their own organization won't. There is a lot of compassion missing here. Brennan may be a good reporter but that doesn't make her a good human being here.
 
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PRlady

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You know, sometimes being a good human being means doing your job and it naturally includes conflict with other good human beings doing theirs.

Brennan, particularly if she has not been able to secure an interview with Alexa in private, was doing her job by trying to get an answer in public. The USFS Comms people, if they knew their stuff, would have been doing THEIR jobs to help her answer the question in a way that looked non-defensive and sensitive but that didn't give away any information she did not want to share in that forum. Alexa was doing her job as a professional athlete in an Oly year to try to stay out of public controversy because it never helps, especially if you're young and female. (What she does with SafeSport if she knows something is of course different.)

There are no villains here that I can see. I do think she could have been better prepared to answer the questions but it's possible she was and like a lot of "civilians" in the media world, felt like a deer in the headlights and didn't do it as smoothly as she could have.
 

Vagabond

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At what point did it become acceptable to demand that someone subject to the authority of an abusive organization publicly talk about abuse they might have seen or experienced to news reporters?
I may have missed something because of having someone on Ignore, but I don't remember anyone here suggesting anything of the sort. I have seen people insinuate that Brennan was demanding that, but nothing she said in her interview on The Skating Lesson or that has been quoted here indicates that she did.
 

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