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Disgraced U.S. Olympic Chief of Staff Receives $2.4 Million in Severance Settlement 

July 12th, 2019 Christopher Davis

Olympics Chief of StaffScott Blackmun, the former chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee, resigned under pressure last February after receiving criticism for not protecting gymnasts from the national team doctor’s sexual abuse. Last Wednesday, July 4, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) gave Blackmun a $2.4 million severance pay. Blackmun knew about the accusations against Dr. Larry Nassar, who has been given a 40-175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 250 athletes, for more than a year before they were announced to the public in September 2016.  Blackmun did not report, investigate, or attempt to stop Nassar’s behavior–effectively covering it up. During the time period that Blackmun did nothing, the New York Times identified 55 girls and women Nassar molested. 

Susanne Lyons, the USOPC chairman of the board of directors, defended the severance pay in an official statement. Based “on the requirement for new leadership to guide the organization forward, as well as Blackmun’s serious health challenges, the board approved a separation agreement, as provided for in his contract,” said Ms. Lyons.  The health challenges refer to Blackmun’s diagnosis with prostate cancer in January 2018, a month before his resignation.

“An ecosystem that facilitated his criminal acts…”

In December 2018, the Global law firm Ropes & Gray published a 233-page report commissioned by the Olympic Committee on its ten-month investigation of Nassar’s sexual misconduct, the cultural conditions that accommodated it, and the individuals who were aware of his behavior, but did not speak up.  The report accused the Olympic institution of being an “ecosystem that facilitated [Nassar’s] criminal acts” for almost 30 years. Executive staff adopted a strategy of concealment and secrecy to maintain their lofty salaries and reputations. 

Olympic Leadership Change 

The report singled out three individuals in particular for their inaction: Scott Blackmun, Alan Ashely (the former Olympic’s Chief of Sports Performance), and Steve Penny (the former USA Olympics President).  Not only did Penny and Blackmun sit on the knowledge of Nassar’s sexual abuse for a year and persuade gymnasts to keep his behavior quiet, but they also tampered with electronic evidence that could have incriminated Nassar.  Penny was charged with a felony in October 2018, but Blackmun faced no legal repercussions. While the U.S. Olympics Committee initiated substantial leadership change to address these accusations, they awarded Blackmun and Penny with a combined severance pay-off of $3.4 million. John C. Manly, the lawyer representing 200 victims of Nassar’s sexual abuse, called the severance pay “vile” and “despicable.”  “What kind of an organization gives somebody a multimillion-dollar bonus for protecting a child molester?” he told the New York Times

Seek Legal Assistance 

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace or have questions regarding severance pay, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel. You don’t pay unless we win.