AFTER BEING BANNED FROM USA VOLLEYBALL FOR SEXUAL ABUSE, RICK BUTLER HAS NOW FILED A $250 MILLION LAWSUIT AGAINST US: Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Debra DiMatteo, and Champion Women, a non-profit that seeks to make sport safer for all athletes.
• We are asking for money to help contribute to our legal defense. This lawsuit has been filed against us and Champion Women by two volleyball coaches, Rick and Cheryl Butler, and their businesses: GLV, Inc., Sports Performance VBC, their 12-court facility that runs camps, clinics, and a youth academy.
• Why? In 2018, Rick Butler received a lifetime ban from coaching in USA Volleyball, the AAU and an "indefinite suspension" from the Junior Volleyball Association, which he helped found. In addition, Rick Butler has been banned from all Walt Disney/ ESPN’s properties, one of the hosts of the AAU National Volleyball Championship, with over 2000 VB teams.
• Why? According to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, Rick Butler engaged in “sexual misconduct involving a minor.” Six women have now come forward alleging Rick Butler used his position as their coach to sexually abuse them when they were his underage players.
• Why us? He's mad. Rick Butler is NOT suing USA Volleyball, the AAU, the JVA or Disney. No. He is suing us because we are small ...but mighty. Champion Women is a non-profit dedicated to improving the sexual safety of athletes, particularly in the Olympic Movement. We worked tirelessly to share publicly available information, like his Wikipedia Page, with the volleyball and sports community. We think parents and their athletes should know if a coach has received a formal sanction for sexual abuse.
• The lawsuit does not claim that we or Champion Women defamed him for telling the wider volleyball community about his formal sanctions for sexually abusing his athletes.
• Instead, the 49-page lawsuit claims that we interfered with Butler’s business and that we “intimidated (his customers) into cutting ties with the Butlers and GLV, Inc.”; that he “lost profits from contracts, reputational harm, and other intangible economic injuries,” and that “the Butlers have been subjected to public hatred, contempt, scorn, obloquy, and shame," and “are now unemployable” and that we carried out “an extraordinary campaign of business interference carried out as part of a conspiracy to destroy Rick Butler, Cheryl Butler, and their business, GLV, Inc.”
• The case file is publicly accessible, and it can be found online in Chicago, Illinois federal court, Case No. 1:21-cv-6854
• Meanwhile, the Butlers’ website, www.greatlakescenter.com, shows they are quite prosperous. Their 12-court facility seems to be fully operational, including 44 volleyball teams, both girls and boys. The Butlers are hosting tournaments, summer leagues, camps and clinics, and their Youth Academy starts training kids at three years old.
• Champion Women is a small non-profit, run by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer, a civil rights lawyer. The organization provides legal advocacy for girls and women in sports, including advocacy to address sexual abuse in sport. Champion Women gathered the Olympic Movement members to support two new federal laws that protect athletes from abuse. Sports Illustrated Magazine listed her as one of “the most powerful, most influential and most outstanding women in sports right now—the game-changers who are speaking out, setting the bar and making a difference.”
• Debra DiMatteo is a retired Professor Emeritus of Sports Marketing and Management, having spent a 37-year career as a professor and a college coach of volleyball and fastpitch softball. Her resume includes 21 years at the College of DuPage, 15 years at Benedictine University, and one year at MacMurry College. She has won 4 national NJCAA softball championships and had a record 13 consecutive appearances in NCAA Division III postseason play with 3 Final Four appearances. She has coached 97 All Americans in softball and volleyball, and is an inductee in 3 Hall of Fames: Lewis University, Benedictine University, and the Great Lakes Valley Conference. DiMatteo served as a volunteer on the Great Lakes Region BOD in four decades and is President of Midwest Junior Volleyball, Inc. which helps raise funds for women’s college athletic programs and internships for students in sports management/marketing.
• Sarah Powers-Barnhard has been dismissed from the lawsuit. (Yay!) She was one-of-6 Rick Butler’s former players to come forward about the sexual abuse she suffered as an underage teen, while she was competing for Sports Performance Volleyball Club in the 1980s. Sarah went on to be an All-American at Western Michigan University, and played professional volleyball for the Chicago Breeze from 1987-89. She is now the and is now a Hall of Famer at WMU and the MAC Conference. She is the Director/Owner of Powers Volleyball Club in Florida. As detailed in the Chicago Sun Times by Jon Seidel and Michael O’Brien, Sarah sued the AAU to remove Rick Butler from coaching, with reports that she and up to 5 other female teenagers were sexually abused by Rick Butler when they played for Sports Performance in the 1980’s. Sarah and Rick Butler's other sexual abuse victims bravely fought for decades to bring justice to their molester. Ultimately, their efforts were rewarded; Butler was removed from coaching in USA Volleyball, AAU, and JVA... even though he and his wife still fully operates their volleyball businesses.
We are proud of our actions. We think kids are safer when sports organizations ban abusive coaches and when the sport community knows about those bans. We would do it again. But Champion Women and Debra Dimatteo cannot afford this harassment.
Please help us! The Butlers have the resources to make our lives miserable… for doing the right thing. We want to continue our work without fear of scare tactics like this one.
PLEASE DONATE TO THE LEGAL DEFENSE FOR THIS LAWSUIT. ANY UNUSED FUNDS WILL BE DONATED TO CAUSES DEDICATED TO WOMEN AND GIRLS IN SPORTS. YOU CAN DONATE ANONYMOUSLY OR IN YOUR NAME, AND ANY COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.