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Olympic volleyballer demands her name removed from banner in Rick Butler’s gym

Rick Butler

Rick Butler during a volleyball camp in 2014. | Stacie Scott/Lincoln Journal Star

Former Olympic volleyball player Nancy Reno tore into beleaguered suburban coach Rick Butler in an open letter released Friday, demanding that he remove her name from a banner in his Aurora gym.

Reno was on one of Butler’s teams in the 1980s, but she wrote that it “does not give you the right to display my name, without permission, in your facility. Your deplorable acts against my teammates at that time are beyond reprehensible.

Nancy Reno plays in a tournament at North Avenue Beach in 1999. | Sun-Times file photo

“Your financial gains made in the name of growing the great sport of volleyball and developing youth talent were actually rooted in the tears and pain of vulnerable children. These were my teammates Rick, and I stand behind them,” wrote Reno, an Elmhurst native who was an All-American at Stanford University and a fifth-place finisher in beach volleyball at the 1996 Olympics.

Butler has faced a growing number of women accusing him of a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct. He was hit last month with the most significant assault on his career yet with a federal class-action lawsuit filed by the parent of a woman who had been coached by Butler, detailing the experiences of six women who allege Butler abused them as teenagers. Those six women are not party to the suit.

Phone calls to Butler’s Sports Performance Volleyball facility went unanswered Saturday morning. His attorneys did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Reno threatened to take legal action, calling the use of her name on the banner “exploitative” and “misleading.”

Butler was first briefly banned from USA Volleyball in 1995 after Sarah Powers-Barnhard, Julie Romias and Christine Tuzi accused him of sexually abusing them in the 1980s while he was their coach and they were under 18.

Since their allegations were highlighted by the Chicago Sun-Times in November 2017, USA Volleyball has imposed a lifetime ban on Butler, who was also “permanently disqualified” by the Amateur Athletic Union, and “indefinitely suspended” by the Junior Volleyball Association.

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Butler says he has “never sexually abused any individual,” but he has conceded he had sex with Powers-Barnhard, Romias and Tuzi, claiming it happened when they were of legal age, and not on his team. The coach has never been charged with a crime, though his accusers say the relevant statutes of limitations had expired before they came forward.

In her letter, Reno also took a personal shot at another banner in Butler’s gym listing him as a coach on the 1992 men’s Olympic volleyball team, calling the distinction “highly debatable.”

“I find you to be a fraud on every level,” Reno wrote.