Rick Butler, the powerhouse suburban youth volleyball coach dogged for decades by sexual abuse claims, says he’s been kicked out by the sport’s national governing body.
RELATED: The Sun-Times series on Rick Butler
Butler runs the dominant Sports Performance Volleyball in Aurora, and he announced his ban in a statement Friday afternoon through his attorney, Terry Ekl. Though sexual abuse claims have been central to efforts to end his career, Butler says he has been expelled by USA Volleyball for filing a lawsuit and defending himself “against baseless accusations that were made against me to the Chicago Sun-Times.”
USA Volleyball is still expected to hold a three-day, closed-door hearing next week in Colorado regarding new sexual abuse claims lodged against Butler. Butler said in his statement he is done participating in such hearings, though his attorneys have signaled their intention to take further legal action.
“USA Volleyball, through its actions, has indicated that it has no intention of providing me with a fair and impartial hearing or the opportunity to adequately defend myself at the hearing,” Butler said. “Therefore, I have decided that I will not expend additional resources to participate in what will clearly be a sham hearing, where my guilt has already been predetermined.”
USA Volleyball did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon. The organization had also been expected to hold a hearing regarding Butler last month, but a USA Volleyball attorney declined this week to comment on the outcome.
It was not immediately clear Friday what the ban means for Butler’s Sports Performance Volleyball club or its participants. Past efforts to end Butler’s coaching career have had limited effect.
Sexual abuse allegations have trailed Butler for 22 years. USA Volleyball banned him from its ranks “for life” in 1995 after three former players — Sarah Powers-Barnhard, Julie Romias and Christine Tuzi — alleged he sexually abused them in the 1980s while he was their coach and they were under 18.
On Friday afternoon, Powers-Barnhard wanted to see more from USA Volleyball.
“I’ll feel positive about it when I see in writing that Rick Butler is banned for life from USAV for abusing players. I need to see that. Until then I’m still fighting. He breaks rules; we all know that,” she said.
Romias offered a similar sentiment saying, “I’m hoping and praying that USA Volleyball does the right thing and also bans him on the second charge of the abuse because future girls need to be protected.”
Butler has said through his attorney he has “never sexually abused any individual.” He has conceded he had sex with Powers-Barnhard, Romias and Tuzi, but only after they were no longer minors and no longer on his team.
USA Volleyball partially rescinded Butler’s ban in 2000. Meanwhile, his teams also participate in other youth sports organizations, including the massive Amateur Athletic Union, which has declined to comment on the allegations against Butler.
However, USA Volleyball filed a new complaint against Butler in December 2016, seeking to expel him again based in part on allegations by a woman from suburban Norridge named Beth Rose, who claims Butler sexually abused her in 1983, when she was 16, while he shared an apartment with her mother.
Rose reacted to news of Butler’s ban by telling the Sun-Times: “He broke an order. He has no right to do that. Nor does anyone else.”
The new complaint against Butler also notes a fifth alleged sexual abuse victim has “elected to remain silent.” And it identifies a woman — who asked the Sun-Times that her name not be published — who claims Butler made inappropriate comments toward her when she was a player on his team. She has declined to comment.
Though the new sexual abuse allegations have been pending for more than a year, records show USA Volleyball filed yet another complaint against Butler after the Sun-Times published the series “Net Pains,” which detailed the latest claims. USA Volleyball alleged Butler improperly revealed the contents of its December 2016 complaint.
That document only became public through an unsuccessful lawsuit Butler filed in January 2017 to thwart the new expulsion efforts. USA Volleyball alleges that document was subject to a protective order forbidding its disclosure — and a hearing over Butler’s alleged violation of that order had been set for Dec. 8. That issue has now apparently led to Butler’s lifetime ban.
“I have been attacked in the media by a group of individuals that are determined to destroy my business and reputation by inventing allegations against me from over 30 years ago,” Butler said in his statement Friday. “I refused to allow those accusations to go unanswered and for that, USA Volleyball has determined that I deserve to be expelled from USA Volleyball. Apparently, USA Volleyball falsely believes that its authority exceeds that of the U.S. Constitution. USA Volleyball is a national governing body of the (United States Olympic Committee) and hopefully the USOC will take appropriate action to prevent abuses by USA Volleyball in the future.”