While SI has printed many groundbreaking stories in recent
years--on topics ranging from the abuse of performance-enhancing
drugs to professional athletes' neglecting their out-of-wedlock
children--none to my mind has been more important than our
investigation of how child molesters infiltrate youth sports
leagues (Every Parent's Nightmare, Sept. 13, 1999). By showing
how child molesters use fields of play and gyms as feeding
grounds and how parents can be deceived into placing their trust
in the wrong person, we hoped to encourage people everywhere to
work harder to minimize the risks posed to children.
In the last several weeks we have received hundreds of letters
from readers praising the story. Many of those letters were from
parents, teachers, youth organizations and law enforcement
agencies writing to thank us for having taken on this tough
subject and to let us know what they were doing to better
protect kids. In his letter Bill Lockyer, the attorney general
of California, said, "[SI's] article draws important attention
to the fact that many sexual predators contact young people by
becoming involved in youth sports, and...dramatically
demonstrates the importance for parents to know who has access
to their children." Lockyer went on to note that his office is
educating parents on how to use California's Megan's Law CD-ROM
sex-offender registry and making them aware of a phone number to
call to find out if a coach is a convicted sex offender. We
applaud the attorney general's efforts and commend them to his
colleagues in other states.
We also wish to commend all the children who confronted their
abusers and brought them to justice. The courage of these
youngsters, surpassed only by their concern for others, is truly
inspirational. They are heroes and should be treated as such.
Regrettably, one letter, from several players and two assistant
coaches on a California Little League team, said that the
publication of their team photo in conjunction with the story
created the impression that they were either victims of or
participants in the actions of their head coach, Norman Watson,
who two years ago was convicted on 39 counts of lewd acts with
children that occurred between 1990 and 1996. While neither the
article nor the caption accompanying the picture said anything
of the sort, and neither named any child who was victimized by
Watson (SI withheld the names of all victims under 18 in the
story), we sincerely regret any discomfort the players and
coaches may have experienced. As the article said, "The
overwhelming majority of coaches on America's youth sports
fields are there for all the right reasons."
That goes for the kids as well, most of whom, thankfully, will
never have to confront the Norman Watsons of this world.
BILL COLSON, Managing Editor
about possible child molesters.