Outside Hotlines for Athletes Are a Sign of Strained Trust in Sports

Outside Hotlines for Athletes Are a Sign of Strained Trust in Sports

Now, just two weeks after finalizing the deal with Lighthouse, Burke is receiving reports, and already seeing patterns.

“It’s not a panacea, but it’s certainly one tool in the toolbox,” Burke said.

The hotline certainly got the attention of the league’s powers. Within a week, both the N.W.S.L. and the OL Reign had announced separate deals with Real Response, a company in Charlotte.

“We understand that we must undertake a significant systemic and cultural transformation to address the issues required to become the type of league that N.W.S.L. players and their fans deserve and regain the trust of both,” the league said in a news release.

Even though having multiple hotlines for players may seem redundant, some issues — like financial abuses, business practices, or health concerns — may be more germane to a specific level, such as a club, according to the companies.

Real Response was founded in 2015 by David Chadwick, a former college basketball player at Rice and Valparaiso. When his Rice team was reeling from allegations of racist behavior by its athletic director, he struggled to figure out who and what to believe. There was no obvious way, he said, for an athlete to immediately raise questions or get feedback from the administration on issues such as drugs, hazing, inappropriate relationships or mental health.

“We can’t wait for those end-of-year surveys; we need a mechanism in real time,” he said.

Real Response now works with more than 100 college athletic departments, with recent additions including Syracuse, Wichita State and Tulane. The company also has been hired by the N.F.L.P.A., U.S.A. Gymnastics and USADA.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a lawyer and former Olympic swimming champion, cautioned that while she supported the concept, “the question is whether any third-party hotlines are given the authority to do the investigation, whether members of the sports organization are required to be cooperative, and whether their findings are to be recognized and enforced by the sport organization.”

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