On Nov. 19, the U.S. Center for SafeSport changed George Morris’ suspension status on its website, which had been listed as “subject to appeal/not yet final” to “permanently ineligible,” meaning that Morris’ bid to overturn his ban in arbitration was unsuccessful. (The organization does not announce or comment on its findings.)
Morris, the former chef d’equipe for U.S. show jumping, was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor and was banned from equestrian sport by the U.S. Center for SafeSport in August, pending appeal. Two alleged victims testified at the arbitration held earlier this month. Morris denied the charges and declined to comment to the Chronicle about the arbitration when reached by phone yesterday.
In a statement emailed after this story was first published, Kira Wilson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Center for SafeSport, reiterated that the Center was not commenting on the matter itself, but that Ju’Riese Colón, chief executive officer of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, made the following statement:
“No matter how big a figure is in their sport, or how old the allegations, nobody is above accountability. Athletes and other sport participants must be empowered to stand up for what’s right and speak out against what they know to be wrong. The Center’s fair process is a critical part of making that a reality because it gives participants confidence they will be heard, which is essential to making well-being the centerpiece of sport culture.
“The Center conducts thorough investigations before rendering a finding such as lifetime suspension. The victims in these matters not only suffered the abuse they first report, they often bravely survive countless attacks, even in their sport, for having the courage to speak up. Such a response is wrong on many levels, including the fact that it re-victimizes those who already suffered more than anyone should. We cannot allow this behavior to continue as it undermines all that’s great about sport participation.
“While the Center does not comment on specific matters, it wants all survivors, including those who came forward in this instance, to know that the SafeSport Code is in place to prevent abuse, provide a voice for those who need one, and hold abusers accountable. The decision to restrict an individual’s ability to participate in sport is not taken lightly, which is why the process is exhaustive and includes many provisions to ensure fairness so both claimants and responding parties are given ample opportunity to speak for themselves, provide evidence, seek counsel and be heard in front of another independent body.”
U.S. Equestrian Federation CEO Bill Moroney released a brief statement, saying: “Yesterday’s ruling is the result of the Center’s process, and we respect their decision.”
Under the lifetime ban, which is reciprocated by the Fédération Equestre Internationale, Morris is not able to coach international teams for the United States, or any other countries.
A USEF spokesperson further added, “The U.S. Center for SafeSport Code has an Aiding and Abetting provision where it is a violation of the SafeSport Code to allow a banned person to coach or instruct participants. Based on this, a USEF member facilitating a clinic may be subject to disciplinarian action by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”
This is a breaking story and will be updated.