Friday, August 5, 2022

An Open Letter to American Curlers in re DEI



Hi, I’m Bobbie Todd. Besides being a curler, I am a retired lawyer, a NASCAR fan, a digital communications professional, and a Black woman. And I have just resigned from my role as chairperson of the USA Curling Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Task Force. Here’s why:

In 2020, I joined the DE&I task force in order to help shape and prepare USA Curling for the future. While this task force was largely founded in response to the events of George Floyd and racial unrest that occurred during the summer of 2020, it came together under the singular purpose of working to better USA Curling’s ability to reach people of all races, genders, colors, creeds, socioeconomic status, etc. In the simplest of terms, we wanted to help curling clubs to better reflect the local communities that they are in.

When it comes to DE&I work, it is easy to satisfy the performative aspects of this term by ensuring that the correct quantities of young people, women, and people of color (POC) are “included.” But true DE&I includes much more than quotas. USA Curling is a national governing body for the sport of curling. On the macro level, this means that USA Curling should seek inclusion from as many parts of the country as possible. Furthermore, as any human resources department will tell you, allowances must be made for people who may have a medical or other life-changing situation to deal with. My goal in working with the DE&I task force has always been to enable and empower as many people in the country who want to curl to do so regardless of any given characteristic a specific individual may or may not have. Simply put, I want curling clubs in America to reflect the demographics of the communities they are in.

When the news broke on July 22, 2022, regarding the USA Curling board planning to vote in support of kicking the Grand National Curling Club (GNCC) region out, I was stunned. For the past two years, I have been working on the DE&I committee to ensure that access to curling and outreach to local communities improved. I was proud of the progress we were making. However, this was short-lived as four days later, at their July 26, 2022 board meeting, the USA Curling board of directors approved the charter for the DE&I task force with the express mission of “work[ing] towards a more inclusive tomorrow by upholding the mission of the National Governing Body” (NGB). The mission of USA Curling is “to grow, strengthen, and advocate for the Olympic and Paralympic sport of Curling in the United States by prioritizing accessibility and programmatic development from grassroots to podium.” (Approved Charter, pg. 1). Yet at that same board meeting, voted unanimously to remove the GNCC region from USA Curling.

While there are a number of truths, lies, misunderstandings, rumors, etc. circulating about how this decision came to be, I feel that I must address the problem here on the nose. The USA Curling board of directors cannot in one vote seek to remove a large population of curlers (GNCC) that have struggled since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, and then in the next vote, seek to affirm DE&I. Basically, in one week, USA Curling has voted to remove around 30 percent of curlers from its ranks while simultaneously seeking to “expand curling.” This is unacceptable.

As a member of USA Curling, the GNCC, and my local curling club [Curling Club of Virginia (CCVA)] which has not collected nor paid dues as we have not been able to hold league since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I am one of the curlers that USA Curling no longer wants.

However, USA Curling will let my club become an “at-large” club in exchange for fealty and no further representation. Or we could join a curling region that is geographically separated from our club and likely would not have our best interests in mind. No matter which path is chosen, it is abundantly clear that USA Curling would rather fight to exclude a large portion of U.S. based curlers, instead of seeking inclusion and actually growing the curling community.

My goal when it came to curling DE&I has always been to have curling clubs reflect the communities they are in and expand the sport to reach as many people as possible. I personally do not believe that attempting to kick out the largest and arguably most diverse region in the country from the national governing body advances that goal. Do you?


19 comments:

  1. Well said my friend.....I'm happy to have skipped you at Potomac and look forward to many more spiels together.

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  2. Beautifully written. Thank you

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  3. Thank you for eloquently calling out the hypocrisy in recent actions by the USCA. Their actions (to me) prove that they want to cherry pick the curlers they represent, and they must have your complete fealty...no questions asked.

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  4. Thank your Bobbie for showing us what true leadership means to fight to expand the game and culture of curling for all fellow humans. I am fortunate to have started curling before it returned to the Olympics in 1998 and thus, have seen the old national volunteer-based true "Spirit of Curling" in action. Then, I saw USCA, Inc. change profoundly as pressures built to get more gold medals at it would seem any cost. I was flabbergasted as a curling official to watch in Seattle a young ladies junior team win and then be told their 5th whom I had seen working so hard for her team was not welcome to go to Junior Worlds because another curler would be selected by the brand new USCA, Inc. High Performance staff. I watched in the warm room a young teen dissolved in tears surrounded by her team mates hugging her and said to myself: this is becoming no longer my sport. Curlers are NOT fungible pieces of meat to be treated like Roman gladiators.

    As a fellow lawyer, I read some of the early adhesion contracts our HP athletes were forced to sign and wondered how much lower would our national leadership go to chase gold medals. Saw this past winter USCA, Inc, staff wait until the last minute to announce the 2022 Club Nationals date and venue until well after all regions had already held playdowns. Their excuse per the host state organization was the national headquarters leadership was too busy during the Winter Olympics to deal with that grassroots matter. They cancelled the 2022 Arena Nationals also after regional playdowns had been held. Why? Does not the current USCA, Inc. leadership care about growing the sport at the grassroots level? How else to explain its decision to want the GNCC to disappear off their map before few of us grassroots curlers nationwide knew there was any dispute between GNCC and USCA, Inc.? In essence, our national leadership has demonstrated magical thinking that if its HP athletes are on Olympic TV that is all that is needed to "grow the sport."

    Our national organization should represent all of us from grassroots to those playing at international level as well as those watching our games on TV or from behind the glass at a hockey rink. And, have good relations with any curling club or organization within our 50 states even those who do not pay dues or sign sponsorship contracts with USCA, Inc. The Spirit of Curling demands good fellowship between *all* curlers and always striving to play a "good game" - a "bonspiel" - which means a game played to the last rock and then the players having such kindly feelings to each other they want to socialize together after a game. How a lopsided game is not fun to the true curler yet some of the past TV contracts have required those broadcasted games to be played for at least 5 ends or more. How ironic that in 2021, the International Olympic Committee motto of "Faster, Higher, Stronger" changed by adding "- Together." It's time for the U.S.A. curling community to step up and make that happen for our sport right now. A clean sweep may be needed. We've certainly got enough brooms. We can do this together.

    Cheers to all,
    Alice

    Alice Mansell
    President, Granite Curling Club of California

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  5. The board of USA Curling needs to go. We need progressive and inclusive leadership, not the same old same old from the same tired voices.

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  6. Adding to the colossal error here is the stretching of truth by USA Curling Directors. Two falsehoods I hear again and again: first, that GNCC never offered a written solution/alternative to the situation and second, that the USA Curling bylaws *required* them to kick out GNCC. Both items are false, and both falsehoods have been propagated again and again by USA Curling Directors.

    I call on all club presidents in USA Curling member clubs to attend the upcoming members assembly and vote to remove the current board and replace them with people who actually care about grassroots growth, diversity, equity and inclusion. Oh, and please block the removal of GNCC and vote to welcome them back into USA Curling so that we can forget this sorry chapter.

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  7. I'll take the other side from what most others are saying. The U.S.C.A. is not at fault here. The GNCC is. They are the ones whom didn't want to abide by the same rules as everyone else.

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    1. USCA also did not abide by their very own bylaws. At least one club in GNCC resigned their membership in USCA then was told by USCA that clubs could not just quit. This contradicts USCA bylaw 5.3.c. There is some speculation this was done in case the GNCC stance of 95% should only be counted among member USCA clubs, GNCC would still be below that threshold.

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  8. John B. The GNCC is the oldest curling organization in the United Stated and comprises about half the curling clubs in the US and over 6,000 members. The GNCC was established in the 1880's to foster curling in the entire United States (all 50 states). The GNCC established friendly curling exchanges with Canada and Scotland. The current USCA Scotland Scots Tour was originally the GNCC - Scotland Scots Tour. Throughout its existence the GNCC has established many events and programs to help developing clubs in the US. In recent history in the Eastern US. In the1950s the GNCC created the USWCA and USMCA to allow regional playdowns for the newly created World Curling Chamionships. These organizations have morphed into the USAC we see today. The GNCC has always, and always will, support grassroots curling as it's core function. The GNCC established the first 5 and under competitions, the first arena championships. Wheelchair curling, curling for the blind, just to name a few. The GNCC has a stone rental program to help new clubs and a far superior insurance program for brick and mortar clubs and arena clubs than the USAC copy of the GNCC insurance plan. The governance by-laws were established to discriminate against the GNCC (in my view). And contrary to USAC propaganda was not unanimously approved. The USAC is an ever expanding, I believe they intend to add 10 positions to the national office, Goliath that has supporting a small handful of hand picked elite athletes over the broader curling community. This is unfortunate for the curlers in the US. The GNCC supports all grassroots curling and supports their member clubs. Something that USAC could take a lesson on.

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    1. According to the org chart from the last USCA board meeting, the staff is intended to eventually be 47. There are 8 that they are looking to immediately hire, with another 11 in the future. Of the planned future staff, it is broken down as 8 outsourced (looks like hiring marketing and medical companies), 6 part-time, at least 14 full time (what they have now), so who knows if those 19 are full or part time, some job titles are: Director, DEI, High Performance Consultant, Director of sponsorship. With a staff growing to 47, I'd hope someone's job includes visiting clubs to see what is happening at the grassroots level.

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    2. On a Reddit curling thread someone posted the USCA CEO visited after the July 26 vote news broke with a small group of curlers from Broomstones CC in GNCC and he also visited other GNCC clubs, too. Either he helps fix this mess fast or he is going to sacked.

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  9. Honest question.

    Is it better to try to be a part of a solution & make mistakes in the process - or - quietly facilitate an inequitable, structural status quo ?

    Also, Is “access” the same as “inclusion”?

    I’m disappointed in how this has been handled by both bodies b/c ultimately it’s curlers who lose out; two wrongs don’t make a right.


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  10. The GNCC has reached out to the USCA on "MANY" occasions to try to resolve this matter. Usually teleconferences, sometimes email. I laughed when I read the usac letter that the GNCC hadn't given written letters to try and solve this. I guess teleconferences with Courtney and others don't count as attempts to solve the matter.

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  11. In one of the most diverse regions - as many have pointed out here - GNCC has somehow managed to maintain a mostly homogenous member profile for decades? Since we’re framing this as a DEI topic (and I’m really not sure that we should be, but I appreciate the spirit of the post). Then perhaps we should be asking the organization that so easily touts “Grassroots Development” as a core mission, why they seem content to have only been planting one kind of seed all this time?
    Unless of course I’m missing something & if so I’m 100% open to learning more.

    My 2 cents !
    Deb Martin
    Curling Enthusiast

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    1. Bobbie referred to GNCC as "...the largest and arguably most diverse region in the country...", but all would agree that it is not yet diverse enough. This is why we need programs like the one that Bobbie was apparently assigned to run. The point here is that rash decisions (like the one USAC just made) lead to collateral damage.

      They kicked out GNCC which I'm sure felt good in the moment. "Got 'em!", "Called their friggin' bluff!", "Payback for 15 years of jabs and insults!", "Yeah!".

      But now we find out that part of the collateral damage is we lose our chairperson of the USA Curling Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Task Force.

      So now that GNCC is kicked out, which region is our most diverse? Alaska? Dakotas? Wisconsin?

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  12. Very good point Deb. This started as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) discussion.

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    1. this started as a blog post about how we are losing our chairperson of the USA Curling Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Task Force because of a really dumb decision by leaders at USAC to kick out GNCC.

      I'm guessing those leaders don't care much about Diversity or Equity, and it's clear as day that they don't care at all about Inclusion.

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  13. Well said Bobbie
    However we need to patch this rift up before it does serious damage to curling in America
    1/ Need many GNCC representatives at the association meeting in October to prevent the 2/3 majority approving the decision
    2/ Need to get the USAC implementing change to provide all the services we have been asking for over the last 40 years ( we were talking this same subject in 1982)
    3/ When the USAC is providing better services than the GNCC and to all regions ( not just the Midwest) then you can get rid of the regions as Dean Gemmell indicates in his podcast
    4/ Mind you why get rid of your history ie GNCC?
    5/ The GNCC adopted the Stuart’s (Scottish king’s) motto perhaps for a reason
    Nemo me immune lacessit
    I Translate : Attack me and you will get hurt
    That is exactly what will happen if we aren’t able to change direction

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