The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality has appointed as executive director a former U.S. Olympic Committee official whose handling of a coach accused of sexually assaulting young athletes came under question.
Malia Arrington takes over in her new Hollywood role December 1, succeeding interim director Trista Schroeder. Anita Hill issued a statement, lauding Arrington’s work as chief operating officer of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an organization dedicated to protecting athletes from emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
“Malia Arrington brings to the commission a wealth of legal and operational experience that will be invaluable as we work with our members — which include the industry’s leading studios, television networks, streaming services, music companies, talent agencies, trade associations, and unions — to set best policies and practices aimed at eliminating sexual harassment and bias in Hollywood,” said Hill in a statement.
Before joining joining the nonprofit in 2016, Arrington served as senior director at the U.S. Olympic Committee. It is in this capacity that her oversight of young athletes fell under scrutiny, as news organizations explored the Olympic organization’s failure to protect young athletes from sexually predatory coaches.
Arrington’s job was created in 2011 in the wake of an abuse scandal that rocked USA Swimming. She was confronted with a new set of allegations in early 2014, when three female athletes notified the USOC they had been sexually abused by their Taekwondo coach, Marc Gitelman.
One of the woman, Yasmin Brown, said she was 16 when Gitelman provided her with alcohol and attempted intimate contact. Over the next three years, her coach forced her to have sex dozens of times, in hotels before tournaments, at his studio and in his car, according to a Washington Post investigation.
Brown tried to get USA Taekwondo, the Olympic national governing body for the sport, to ban Gitelman from coaching. The organization believed her, but didn’t ban Gitelman out of fear of a lawsuit, the Post reported.
Brown appealed to the USOC for help, but it, too, failed to intercede. Only after Gitelman was convicted for lewd conduct with a child in 2015 was he banned from coaching.
In a deposition obtained by the Post, Arrington testified that she believed Brown — but hadn’t urged the USA Taekwondo to ban the abusive coach, claiming, “The USOC does not have the authority to do anything.”
That response triggered a firestorm of criticism.
“#LEGALLYWRONG” tweeted Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a civil rights attorney, Olympic gold medalist swimmer and CEO of Champion Women, a non-profit advocacy group for girls and women in sports, who has criticized Arrington for her lack of independence from the USOC.
Arrington did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment, but a spokesperson said Arrington was bound by the USOC’s interpretation of the Ted Stevens Act, which contains no specific mandate that the Olympic governing bodies protect children in their ranks. That changed when she became chief operating of the U.S. Center for SafeSport in 2017.
“It was Malia who led the charge to establish an independent body to address sexual misconduct across the Olympic and Paralympic Movements,” her spokesman said in a statement. “She’s the one who shepherded the creation of the SafeSport Code that is ultimately responsible for making more than 250 individuals permanently ineligible to participate in just over a year.”
The center has taken on other forms of abuse, including emotional and physical such as bullying and hazing, through its education efforts.