By Eric Longabardi
Tennis officials certified by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) do not undergo background checks, even when working with children according to information and documents uncovered by the The Enterprise Report. The USTA has nearly three-thousand certified tennis officials in the U.S. The officials oversee and supervise tennis matches and tournaments for thousands of children across the United States.
The USTA's long standing policy of not requiring background checks for officials became the focus of a recent incident in Tucson, Arizona in December of 2009. The Enterprise Report has exclusively learned details about the incident.
In the Arizona case a registered sex offender from California was brought to the attention of the USTA by concerned parents at a national junior tennis tournament called 'The National Winter Championships.
According to sources familiar with the case, Stanley Edwin Smith, 59 of Sonora, CA a long time registered sex offender from Northern California was officiating the 12 and 14 year-old junior boys and girls tennis tournament when his child sex offender criminal background was discovered by a parent.
Smith was confronted by parents and USTA officials and removed from officiating the event. Sources familiar with the case say Smith was an official with the USTA for years and had previously officiated junior tournament tennis matches in Arizona and elsewhere. A local USTA official familiar with Smith told TER Smith has even previously officiated at the U.S. Open in New York. TER attempted to speak to Stanley Smith directly but his listed telephone in California was disconnected.
TER has learned that concerned parents aware of the Arizona case have directly expressed their outrage to the USTA directly on both the local and national level. Some parents, although wanting to address the issue of background checks and the safety of junior tennis players as children, did not want to go public with their concerns in fear of retaliation and in deference to support provided by the USTA to their children. Other parents who did want to make the issue public, but did not want their names used due to the sensitivity of the issue told TER "It's unconscionable that the USTA is allowing this to take place" and that "they should immediately change their national policy and institute a system of background checks for officials to protect the kids".
When contacted for comment, the national head of USTA officials Richard Kaufman in New York did not return TER's phone calls seeking comment on the tennis association's policy or the specifics of the Smith/Arizona case. Kaufman, according to sources close to the Smith incident in Arizona, say he was directly informed by USTA officials there about the incident.
TER did speak extensively with Chris Widmaier USTA chief media spokesman who confirmed the USTA is aware of the recent incident with sex offender Stanley E. Smith and that the organization will be taking up the issue of a potential national policy concerning background checks for certified tennis officials in the near future.
Sources close to the USTA tell The Enterprise Report that the word has been put out to the governing bodies in USTA Junior tennis across the country about this Smith incident and that changes may already be in the works involving a national policy change.
A current posting on the website of the USTA in Northern California (home region of Stanley Smith) states that new individuals seeking USTA certification as officials will now be given background checks:
"Effective immediately, every individual applying for application to become a certified official in USTA Northern will be required to pass a background check."
TER has learned that an additional registered sex offender was identified by the USTA as being a certified tennis official after the recent Smith incident occurred.
USTA spokesman Widmaier refused to comment to TER about any communications the national USTA has had with its different junior tennis affiliates around the country since the December incident in Arizona with sex offender Smith took place. Widmaier would also not comment on any specific time frame that the USTA is using in readdressing the issue of background checks for officials in Junior tennis.
Although the USTA does require background checks for coaches and other adults in Junior tennis, according to spokesman Widmaier it has never had a policy concerning background checks on officials. Other national youth sports programs such as Little League Baseball, Pop Warner Football and AYSO Soccer all have policies mandating background checks for all adults involved that interact with children.