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How abuse is perpetuated in sport organizations

How abuse is perpetuated in sport organizations
February 8, 2021 Heather Janak
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How abuse is perpetuated in sport organizations

Through examining cases of abuse in sport organizations, Dr. Calvin Nite, sport institutions expert, found that institutional work may be to blame in how abuse is perpetuated.

Sport institutions, similar to pillars of government or churches, harbor aspects that are engrained in the fabric of the institution. Nite, associate professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, said these aspects, like organizational hierarchical structures or even the manner in which individuals interact with one another, are often taken for granted.

“Institutional work entails the actions undertaken to either create, maintain or change those engrained things,” Nite said.

Nite set out to understand the issue through examining three high-profile cases of sexual abuse: the rape crisis with Baylor University football, the abuses of Larry Nassar at Michigan State University and the child molestation case of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State University.

Through conducting a content analysis of publicly available documents and media accounts detailing the cases, he found that the manner in which administrators, coaches and other important stakeholders responded to the initial complaints and evidence of sexual abuse seemed to legitimate a culture and disciplinary structures wherein the abusers would be sheltered from justice and the abused would be silenced.

“It seems that the responses prioritized the reputations of the universities and of the beloved coaches over the safety and well-being of the abused,” Nite said.

Can we prevent abuse?

Beyond typical pre-hiring vetting procedures, Nite said there is no way to completely prevent abuse from occurring, however, the primary issue is how leaders and other stakeholders respond when abuse comes to light.

“My recommendation is simple: prioritize the safety and well-being of stakeholders, i.e. employees, athletes, and really, people, over the concerns of organizational/university public image,” Nite said.

He said the impact will be substantially worse if and when it comes to light that the abuses were handled improperly or covered up.

“In truth, the public image of an organization/university is going to be impacted regardless,” Nite said.

About the Writer


Heather is responsible for news coverage in the Department of Health and Kinesiology, as well as the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development.

Articles by Heather

For media inquiries, contact our Media Relations Coordinator, Ashley Green

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