Lawsuit Filed Against Sharks Sports & Entertainment Over Alleged Sexual Abuse of San Jose Jr. Sharks Player

The law firm of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard has filed a lawsuit alleging that a San Jose Jr. Sharks hockey player suffered sexual abuse as a result of the negligence of Sharks Sports & Entertainment, LLC (SSE) and its subsidiary, Sharks Ice, LLC.

According to the lawsuit, former San Jose Jr. Sharks hockey coach Kevin Whitmer allegedly began grooming John Doe in April 2021 and subsequently subjected him to multiple instances of sexual assault when he was 12 years old. The lawsuit contends that Whitmer would reportedly take the young victim alone into the locker room at Sharks Ice, the ice-skating facility serving as the official training venue for the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.

The Jr. Sharks are an affiliate of USA Hockey, the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the United States.

Despite being aware of the risks of abuse and the specific sexual abuse prevention policies required by USA Hockey, SHARKS ICE and SSE, according to the lawsuit, neglected to establish and uphold USA Hockey’s locker room and electronic communication guidelines. Instead, they fostered a detrimental environment where coaches had the liberty to inappropriately isolate male minor hockey players in locker rooms without monitor supervision and engage in unsupervised one-on-one electronic communication with these players, states the lawsuit.

USA Hockey has implemented a zero-tolerance policy for abuse and misconduct, including physical and sexual abuse. The organization has long-standing systems in place to protect participants from various forms of abuse and misconduct, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, screening, locker room supervision, and hazing policies. USA Hockey’s Safe Sport Handbook outlines policies applicable to all member programs to safeguard participants from misconduct and abuse.

The lawsuit states, Sharks Ice and Sharks Sports & Entertainment failed to implement and/or enforce USA Hockey’s locker room and electronic communication policies according to the lawsuit. On the contrary states the lawsuit, Sharks Ice and Sharks Sports & Entertainment enabled a toxic culture wherein coaches could freely use the locker rooms to inappropriately isolate their minor players, and could freely engage in one-on-one electronic communications with them without supervision.

History of Sexual Abuse in Hockey

Recent incidents have highlighted cases of sexual assault within the hockey community, emphasizing the importance of promptly reporting such incidents to the appropriate authorities for investigation and action. Here are a few cases of hockey coaches who have been involved in sexual abuse cases:

  • Thomas “Chico” Adrahtas: Allegations of manipulation and sexual abuse by Adrahtas, who reportedly exploited players’ dreams and trust for sexual advantage
  • Kelvin Cheuk-Ho Lee: Facing charges of sexual assault and interference involving minors during private hockey lessons conducted by Lee
  • Madison Biluk: Charged with multiple offenses, including sexual assault, exploitation, interference, and luring related to a sexually exploitative relationship with a teenage player
  • Graham James: Convicted of sexually abusing players on his teams, with notable cases involving NHL player Sheldon Kennedy and others

These cases highlight the serious issue of sexual abuse within the hockey community and the importance of addressing such misconduct to ensure the safety and well-being of athletes.

What are some common signs of sexual abuse in sports

  • Some common signs of sexual abuse in sports include:
  • Increasing isolation
  • Fear of being alone
  • Aggression and/or impulsiveness
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression and PTSD Personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and even psychosis

Indicators of possible abuse in sports may also include missing practices, illness, loss of interest, withdrawal, and performance significantly below his/her abilities. Other signs can encompass increasing isolation, fear of being alone, aggression and impulsiveness, substance abuse, depression, PTSD, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and even psychosis. These signs serve as crucial indicators that should not be overlooked. It is essential to trust one’s instincts if there are concerns about potential sexual abuse in sports and take prompt action to address the situation to prevent further harm to the athletes involved.

Athletes who have been sexually abused may experience social withdrawal, attachment difficulties, and challenges in forming healthy relationships. The trauma of abuse can affect their ability to trust others, leading to isolation and difficulties in developing social connections.

For more on the Jr. Sharks sexual abuse lawsuit, read these articles:

Associated Press (AP): Lawsuit filed against San Jose Sharks’ parent company for sexual abuse by youth hockey coach
Washington Post: Lawsuit filed against San Jose Sharks’ parent company for sexual abuse by youth hockey coach
San Jose Mercury News: Ex-San Jose Jr. Sharks coach sued over sexual abuse allegations
Business Wire: Law Firm of Cerri, Boskovich & Allard Files a Lawsuit Over the Alleged Sexual Abuse of a San Jose Jr. Sharks Hockey Player

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