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Ensuring a safe and abuse-free environment for athletes

All athletes that are part of a sports federation should be able to practice their sport safely without fear of abuse.

Many stories of athletes who suffered from abuse were brought to the media’s attention in 2018. The situation is not only delicate, it is extremely worrying.

For months, the B2ten organization had been supporting alpine skiers who endured physical and psychological abuse from their former coach at the time when they were members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. In order to bring about drastic and immediate change, and to prevent such stories from happening again, it was important to create awareness at the public and government levels.

Ask

B2ten contacted NATIONAL to talk about its desire to make the sport environment safe for all athletes.

The mandate entrusted to NATIONAL was to develop a sufficiently powerful media campaign that would lead governments to take immediate action and make the implementation of safety programs a requirement for funding for sports federations.

To achieve this, we knew that we could count on the collaboration of four victims who agreed to become the cause’s standard-bearers. Given the sensitivity of the subject, it was essential to use their testimonials in a respectful and delicate manner.

Execution

To ensure that these women’s voices were heard by governments, we planned various tactical initiatives, both on mainstream and social media.

We first decided to invite Canadian French and English-speaking media to a news conference that was carefully prepared with the four victims. The media was able to hear their stories, but above all, to witness their strong call for better safeguards to protect all athletes.

We provided media relations training to the four athletes and accompanied them to each interview following the news conference. We also mobilized public figures from the sports, arts and business communities to support the victims by publishing open letters.

We launched the hashtags #abusefreesport and #sportsansabus to amplify the message’s reach on social media, and we ensured strategic monitoring throughout the campaign.

In parallel, NATIONAL’s government relations experts multiplied calls and used the strength of their network to help B2ten secure meetings with decision makers.

Impact

The campaign led to massive and instant mobilization. The media joined forces to condemn what these women endured. The athletes gave some 70 interviews to the media, and thousands of publications used the hashtags #sportsansabus and #abusefreesport on social networks.

In less than a week, the Quebec government tabled a motion at the National Assembly to require that all sports federations establish an athlete protection program in order to be eligible for funding. The motion was adopted unanimously by all parties.

A week later, the federal government followed suit by announcing tough measures to eliminate all forms of abuse in sport.