What We Need to Hear from Congressman Jim Jordan  

By: Brian Pinero

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters
Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Two weeks ago, we began to hear from former members of the Ohio State Wrestling Team who alleged Congressman Jim Jordan did not address or report sexual abuse of wrestlers by Doctor Richard Strauss during the time that Congressman Jordan coached the team. Congressman Jordan has denied any knowledge of abuses during his time and stated that he thinks there is a difference between conversations in a locker room and formal complaints.

Jordan argues that he would have reported abuse if it had been an official complaint and that in the 1990s, when the alleged abuse occurred, this issue may not have been spoken about with the same clarity that it is today. Some of the athletes affected acknowledge this, but in 2018  they are asking for their coach’s support.  Coaches are leaders forever to those they instruct. When leadership has not been responsive, then it must be reflective. Here is what we would like to have heard instead from Jordan:

“I’m disappointed that any athlete that was a part of a team I coached was a victim of sexual assault. If these issues were brought up, it was through locker room conversations that I possibly failed to interpret in a manner that was consistent with keeping players safe.

Any locker room conversation should be taken seriously. It should have been done 20 years ago, but especially now. Anyone can be a victim. If someone was worried about something on one of my teams and I didn’t follow up on it, I regret that.  

What I hope comes of this is that it is an opportunity for other coaches or anyone in sport to check in and make sure that the lines of communication are open. That it is possible to bring up these difficult subjects. As a coach, I was responsible for creating safe spaces. This means sounding the alarm if someone did not feel safe or there were behaviors that were inappropriate regardless of who they were.”

Today, it is not enough for a leader, much less a coach, to say they were never formally told there was a sexual abuse complaint. Coaches and leaders are responsible for creating the environment that their teams operate in. If something seems off, there should be check-in’s and follow up. Congressman Jordan is not helping any of the men affected by Dr. Strauss by equating all discussion of sexual assault with “locker room conversations.” Jordan should look at the example set by Terry Crews on Capitol Hill a few weeks ago who bravely shared his experience as a male victim.

While these are tough subjects, men can talk about these issues and must be believed when they come forward about abuse. Coach Jordan still had an opportunity to be there for his players, to create space for them to be believed and supported, and to be an example for coaches at all levels of sport going forward.