U.S.A. Gymnastics hires FleishmanHillard amid sex-abuse scandal

The organization is at the center of a series of investigative reports by the Indianapolis Star claiming widespread abuse of gymnasts at the hands of adults over the past two decades.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons, via Bryan Allison).
(Image via Wikimedia Commons, via Bryan Allison).

INDIANAPOLIS: U.S.A. Gymnastics hired FleishmanHillard late last year as the organization responded to allegations that it has not done enough to stop sexual abuse of gymnasts at the hands of coaches over the past 20 years.

An investigation by the Indianapolis Star called "Out of Balance" claimed U.S.A. Gymnastics officials failed to alert law enforcement authorities of allegations of sexual assault by coaches and other adult staff. The newspaper published its first report in the series on the eve of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games; other media outlets followed up on the story.

The Indianapolis Star reported in December that at least 368 gymnasts have alleged "some form of sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches, gym owners, and other adults working in gymnastics." More than 60 women have accused Dr. Larry Nassar, a doctor affiliated with U.S.A. Gymnastics, of sexual assault since September.

U.S.A. Gymnastics brought on FleishmanHillard in December, according to an agency spokesperson.

Both U.S.A. Gymnastics and Fleishman declined to comment on the nature of the work.

The day the Indianapolis Star published a December story about elite gymnasts demanding the organization do more to stop abuse, U.S.A. Gymnastics released an extensive statement outlining its commitment to athlete safety and the steps it has taken to reinforce best practices. It hired an expert to evaluate its procedures, among other measures. USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny said in a December 15 statement that media reports have "largely mischaracterized" its efforts to protect athletes.

FleishmanHillard has worked with several other Olympic organizations in recent years. In addition to supporting Olympic sponsors, the Omnicom Group agency was AOR for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles in 2015. The U.S. Olympic Committee also brought on the firm as its AOR in early 2015. It previously worked with M&C Saatchi PR.

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