One month after USA Volleyball reinstituted its lifetime ban on prominent Chicago-area club director Rick Butler, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and Junior Volleyball Association (JVA) have followed suit. On Friday, the AAU permanently disqualified Butler from participating in any activity involving the AAU. The JVA, an organization Butler helped found, responded to the decision by the AAU by subsequently deciding to indefinitely suspend Butler, effective immediately, from participation in all JVA-hosted and JVA-insured events.
The actions against Butler stem from claims levied by several women that he engaged in unwanted sexual acts with them when they were minors in the 1980s. Butler asserts that he has never sexually abused anyone and that the sexual encounters occurred after they reached adulthood.
In 1995, USA Volleyball, responding to complaints made against Butler, expelled him from its membership but reinstated him five years later provided that he agreed not to coach girls in any USA Volleyball events. In January, 13 months after USA Volleyball issued a new complaint against Butler, the organization again banned him from its ranks “forever” due to “allegations of misconduct and abuse.”
In 2007, Butler’s Sports Performance Volleyball Club stopped participating in USA Volleyball events and he helped found the Junior Volleyball Director’s Association, which today is known as the JVA. JVA-member clubs participate in JVA-sponsored events and attend the season-ending AAU National Championships every June in Orlando. While USA Volleyball’s January ban was essentially toothless because of SPVB’s non-participation, the subsequent bans will carry a lot more weight, as it will likely bar Butler from coaching his 18 Elite team, which is one of the best in the country year in and year out, in all major events.
PrepVolleyball.com reached out to AAU President Roger Goudy for comment beyond his Friday announcement that, “Mr. Butler is no longer a member of the AAU. His membership has been voided and he is permanently disqualified from participating in any activity involving the AAU.” Mr. Goudy’s email inbox, however, is apparently full, because we received notice today, more than 24 hours after it was sent, that there’d been a delay in delivering our email.
JVA Executive Director Jenny Hahn did respond, noting that Butler hasn’t been a member of her organization in more than a year and has never had a leadership role in the organization. She also shared the letter she sent to JVA members over the weekend about Butler.
“On February 9, 2018 the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) announced that the Chairman of the AAU Board of Review has revoked the membership of Rick Butler, disqualifying him from participating in all AAU events and activities. The JVA Board of Directors has determined that JVA will act in accordance with the decision of the AAU and is indefinitely suspending Rick Butler from participation in all JVA-hosted and JVA-insured events. This action is effective immediately.”
PrepVolleyball.com reached out to more than a dozen prominent club directors for comment about the action taken against Butler. Only Front Range director Kay Rogness, who has been outspoken in her criticism of Butler since she left Sports Performance in 1989, responded. Here is what she said, in its entirety:
“I am thankful for the courage and ceaseless determination of the victims – Sarah, Beth, Christine and Julie – to see this matter through to this positive outcome. And to the outpouring of support in all kinds of ways – social media, chat boards, court side, communication from other Sports Performance survivors – that provided some solace to offset the haters and skeptics.
“I salute the reporters at ESPN, the New York Daily News, the Chicago Sun Times, and the Associated Press for giving this story the attention it so deserved. Robert Crispi and Nancy Hogshead-Maker also played pivotal roles in helping put this issue into the public mainstream.
“I appreciate the strong stand Jamie Davis, Lori Okimura and other Board of Directors members took in notifying the recalcitrant AAU and JVA that they had a duty to fulfill. And I applaud the leadership of various clubs in Nevada, Colorado, Texas and Michigan who have taken a solid, public stand against enabling the Butlers by refusing to spend their clubs’ money with them.”
We emailed Butler and asked him three questions:
What will become of 18 Elite?
What will SPVB do going forward?
Why do you think AAU took the action it did when it did?
Butler responded promptly. Here is his statement, in its entirety:
“I know nothing about AAU’s decision or why it was made nor have I seen any complaint that might have been filed. I’m currently trying to find out about the AAU appeal process. I have my own theories about ‘why now’ regarding 30+ year-old allegations, but they’re just my own at this point. I know that USA Volleyball was putting pressure on AAU and the JVA early last week.
“The Sports Performance program will not miss a beat. The training of our athletes will continue as usual and we have a strong core group of coaches who can take our 18 Elite team when they attend tournaments. We also have unbelievable parent support from those who are closest to us on a daily basis. Currently there are many players in the program whose mothers and fathers played for us in the 1980s and 1990s. In January we sent out a mass email to over 600 families in the Sports Performance and Great Lakes Center Youth Academy programs, offering to meet with anyone about the recent press articles regarding the allegations against me from the 1980s. One family out of 600 responded back and asked to meet! At the end of the meeting mom and dad stated that their daughter loved our program and she would be continuing to participate. We have had an open-door policy regarding these allegations for the past 23 years and have never had a player leave the program after meeting with us.
“There’s a lot more to this issue than appears on the surface and in the press. I hope your readers will take the time to look a little deeper than just what they find on social media and on the internet. The one thing that never gets discussed is that Cheryl (my wife) and I went through an eight-month investigation in 1995 during the adoption of a newborn baby. The investigation regarding the adoption was not finalized until long after the USA Volleyball hearing that was held in July of 1995 and almost 20 months after the allegations were initially made against me. The judge overseeing the adoption issued a court order to review all documentation regarding the allegations and the investigator conducted interviews with Cheryl and me to review documents that we were in possession of as well. The adoption was approved in December of 1995.
“We would like to thank all of those who have reached out to us over the past few days with their love and support. Your friendships mean the world to us.”