USA Wrestling has established new parameters regarding who can cover its events, such as this weekend’s Final X at Penn State, featuring Nittany Lion great David Taylor. The national governing body for the sport of wrestling in the U.S. now requires journalists to undergo a background check and take part in a 60- to 90-minute training session.
Media are not allowed to cover USA Wrestling events without completing both parts.
The move, made to ensure the safety of athletes at its events, is considered a first in terms of restricting media credentialing by a national sports governing body. It was denounced by the Associated Press Sports Editors organization.
Kansas City Star sports editor Jeff Rosen, president of APSE, called USA Wrestling's new requirements "problematic on multiple levels" and said in a statement that the organization will advise journalists not to cover any event in which the new credentialing restrictions are in place.
“APSE applauds the effort to protect the safety of USA Wrestling athletes, but making journalists qualify for a membership and take a course in how to identify abuse and bullying is misguided. The lack of specificity on background checks, including the extent and areas of the checks, and the disposal of information and indemnification of the media is both alarming and dangerous.”
I agree, even more so after discussing the restrictions on a call with USA Wrestling’s director of communications Gary Abbott. That’s why the CDT will not be covering this weekend’s event.
The chilling effect of background checks on the media is alarming, as was Abbott’s reference that USA Wrestling is watching how local newspapers cover their events, which he said may factor into whether a site, such as Penn State, is chosen to host the 2020 Olympic wrestling trials.
While he didn’t specifically say if we failed to cover this event, Penn State won’t get to host the trials, the message was received. Which exacerbates the chilling effect of USA Wrestling’s requirement of background checks. If they can do that, what’s next? How much should organizations be allowed to dictate coverage to the media -- and how far will they go if unchallenged?
I hope our stand against undue restrictions on media access doesn’t cost Penn State a shot at hosting the Olympic Trials, but I believe a strong stance is needed.
I wish we could provide you, our readers, with our typical extensive coverage of wrestling matches that take place at national champion Penn State. We value our relationship with the wrestling program and have worked hard to maintain our connection with the team while keeping our role as journalists.