Gender Discrimination in Amateur Boxing

By Adam Pollack

Gender discrimination is alive and well in the sport of amateur boxing. The following is a fascinating bit of information about the law and my current battle with the Golden Gloves.

What are the USOC, USA Boxing, and the National Golden Gloves, and What are Their Duties?

Federal legislation called the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (36 USC section 220501), recognizes the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), a federally chartered organization, to oversee amateur athletics in America. Under section 220503, amongst the purposes of the USOC are (12) to encourage and provide assistance to amateur athletic activities for women.

USA Boxing is recognized by the USOC as the national governing body for amateur boxing. Under section 220522, USA Boxing may continue to be recognized as a national governing body only if it (8) provides an equal opportunity to amateur athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, administrators, and officials to participate in amateur athletic competition, without discrimination on the basis of.sex." and (15) demonstrates that it is prepared to meet the obligations imposed on a national governing body under section 220524. Under section 220524, for the sport that it governs, a national governing body shall (1) develop interest and participation throughout the United States and (6) provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis.

USA Boxing is currently on probation for a variety of reasons (although I am not sure if it is related to gender discrimination). Historically, women were not even allowed to box by USA Boxing until it was forced to allow their participation by a court injunction in 1993. The first U.S. Women's Nationals tournament under USA Boxing was not held until 1997. The first Women's World Championships were held in 2001.

USA Boxing's Constitution and By-Laws, Article III, 203.1 states that its purposes shall be consistent with those of the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. Amongst those enumerated purposes are "To coordinate those programs and activities which contribute to the development of individual skills during local, regional, national and international programs and activities, regardless of....gender...", to "provide an equal opportunity to amateur athletes, coaches...to participate in amateur athletic competition, without discrimination on the basis of...gender...." and under Article IV, 204.2, to "Provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women."

Amongst its membership, USA Boxing chooses to recognize group members such as the National Golden Gloves. Group members must abide by the Group Membership Agreement and abide by all USA Boxing sport rules, regulations and policies. Article VI, 206.1.

The Group Membership Agreement states that the objectives and purposes of the group member must coincide with those of USA Boxing, that the group member agrees to adhere to and comply with all the official rules, regulations and policies of USA Boxing, and that it will hold national championship tournaments in which progressive elimination begins at the local level. Given the above-referenced sections of the USA Boxing Constitution, it is not and cannot be the policy of USA Boxing and therefore the Golden Gloves to discriminate against women.

Discrimination by the Golden Gloves Entities

The first Women's National Golden Gloves tournament was held in 1999. Each year, the National Golden Gloves and its local franchise, the Iowa Golden Gloves Foundation, provides funding for male boxers, coaches, officials, and administrators to attend the National Golden Gloves tournament. This funding includes plane tickets, hotel rooms, and daily money for meals. However, these entities refuse to do the same for female boxers, their coaches, or officials to attend the Women's National Golden Gloves tournament.

History of the Iowa Golden Gloves' Discrimination

At the 2001 Iowa Golden Gloves, Emily Klinefelter competed in a bout at 112 pounds and won. At those championships, coaches were initially informed by the Iowa Golden Gloves that women would not even receive trophies. When coach Jeff Nehring indicated to then Iowa Golden Gloves President John Connors that he would inform the media of this discriminatory treatment, the Iowa Golden Gloves then agreed to provide trophies to the women.

Boxers, coaches, officials, and administrators were funded for the 2001 Men's National Golden Gloves, including plane fare and hotel rooms in Reno, Nevada, and each received $30 per day in meal expenses.

In response to my June 30, 2001 letter requesting funding assistance, Iowa Golden Gloves President John Connors informed me that no funding would be available from the Iowa Golden Gloves for Emily or Katy Klinefelter to compete at the 2001 Women's National Golden Gloves, despite the fact that the men were funded. They did not compete at that tournament.

Documents recently reviewed at the Office of the Iowa Athletic Commissioner reveal that the Iowa Golden Gloves received a $25,225 state grant for fiscal year 2000-2001 to be used for boxers. The Iowa Golden Gloves reverted $19,758.35 of that grant back to the state, as is required for unused money. Sponsors obtained through the national organization helped assist with the expenses for the men's tournament. Despite having adequate funding, the Iowa Golden Gloves refused to assist women's boxing, choosing instead to send the money back to the state.

Subsequently, I discussed with new Iowa Golden Gloves President Donald Avant, Jr. the possibility of obtaining funding for women at the 2002 Women's National Golden Gloves. Mr. Avant stated that he would attempt to secure funding for them (not revealing the fact that the Iowa Golden Gloves did indeed have adequate funding to support women).

On May 11, 2002, Bob Hardesty, Member of the Iowa Golden Gloves Board of Directors, called and informed me that the Iowa Golden Gloves was in fact funding women's participation in the National Golden Gloves. At the Iowa Golden Gloves tournament, on or about May 18, 2002, Don Avant reaffirmed to me that it looked like something would be worked out financially for the women. Therefore, when Mr. Avant at a coach, boxer, and officials breakfast, asked whether there were any issues or complaints anyone had, the issue of funding for women was not raised.

Both men and women seniors (age 17-34) were allowed to compete at the 2002 Iowa Golden Gloves. Emily Klinefelter won unopposed at 112 pounds.

Bob Hardesty called on June 6, 2002 to inform me that there would not be any funding for the women. When I called that and asked Mr. Avant the reason why the women were not being funded, Mr. Avant indicated the Board felt that because the women had not actually boxed but won unopposed, they would not receive funding. I pointed out to Mr. Avant that Emily Klinefelter did compete in a bout at the 2001 Golden Gloves, yet she received no funding. I also pointed out that male boxers who win unopposed in Iowa received funding.

Mr. Avant did not respond to my specific rebuttal. Instead, two days later, I received a letter from Mr. Avant putting forth an entirely different reasoning for the denial. This letter from the Iowa Golden Gloves indicated that the Board had unanimously voted to "table the issue" regarding the Women's Nationals because: "1. We had not planned, nor mentioned this in our letter to all clubs, nor was it in the entry blanks. 2. We have not sent a team to the Junior Golden Gloves. 3. We did not mention either the Female Golden Gloves or Junior Golden Gloves Tournaments in our Boxing Grant request to provide the money necessary for sending teams to these events. (Iowa Golden Gloves funds are raised primarily through sponsorships, grants and ticket sales)." The Iowa Golden Gloves never provided an explanation as to why those three things were not and have not been done, given that there has been a Women's National Golden Gloves since 1999, that there had been previous expressed interest in the tournament, and that it is a written policy of USA Boxing to foster, encourage and support women.

For fiscal year 2001-2002, the Iowa Golden Gloves received $6,815 from the state of Iowa. The letter from Athletic Commissioner Byron Orton approving the funding stated that "I hope that these funds will help you further the interests of amateur boxing in Iowa" and, "Again this year, the Grant Committee expressed its intent to use the grant money for the boxers." Women are boxers too. Federal tax records reveal that Iowa Golden Gloves net assets or fund balances at year end 2001 were listed as $135,856.00, of which $131,984 were "Savings and temporary cash investments." The Iowa Golden Gloves has the money to support women.

Because I raised my belief that the Iowa Golden Gloves' discrimination violated USA Boxing's policies and the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act, Iowa Golden Gloves Vice-President Mike Rickord stated to me "now that you have brought up the court ruling you have lost me as a supporter as you do not realize the economics of this situation." He also stated, "The boxing fans do NOT relate women to boxing" and "If you persist with your cause and it will merit media attention as you are aware of it will kill and I WILL KILL all of my efforts to build the Gloves up I assure you of that..Thes girls will have 0 Gloves related opportunities and it will be equal rights as the boys and men won't either." (spelling and grammatical errors are his). The Iowa Golden Gloves Foundation is a non-profit corporation.

On July 25, 2002, I asked Mr. Avant to justify morally and legally the Board's position, quoting the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Mr. Avant forwarded that e-mail to Mr. Rickord. No response was provided by the Iowa Golden Gloves other than an e-mail by Mr. Rickord to Mr. Avant which was copied to me on July 26, 2002, wherein Mr. Rickord stated in part "I'd like to have your permission to kick his ass but I don't think that would help our cause. We'd get plenty of exposure though!"

Emily and Katy Klinefelter competed at the 2002 Women's National Golden Gloves in Chicago, Illinois. Katy won the 13-14 year old 119 pound division, becoming Iowa's first female national champion. Emily lost a 3-2 decision to Chicago's Cecilia Barraza, but won the National Ringside Tournament shortly thereafter, defeating Canada's Tammy deLaforest, who had won silver at the 2001 Women's World Championships. Emily Klinefelter graduated high school in 2002 with a 4.0 average and was a City High valedictorian in Iowa City.

The Iowa Golden Gloves funded male boxers, coaches, officials, and administrators to the 2002 Men's National Golden Gloves in Denver, Colorado. This included hotel stay for one week, plane fare, and meals.

The Iowa Golden Gloves was asked to reimburse $621.87 in expenses for the 2002 Women's National Golden Gloves, including two rooms and some meals. No money was requested for travel/gas reimbursement as we drove there and were willing to cover that expense.

The Iowa Golden Gloves' lawyer, James Ratty Cook (also a board member), sent a letter dated September 20, 2002 to me indicating that the Iowa Golden Gloves would not provide reimbursement for the expenses of the 2002 Women's National Golden Gloves. Despite this, Mr. Cook represented that "it is absolutely clear that the position of the Iowa Golden Gloves to encourage and promote the participation of all athletes, regardless of .sex." Mr. Cook represented that "it is the position of the board that any amateur boxer can ask for our assistance, and each request will be considered on the basis of need, and our ability to assist. Given that criteria I cannot imagine that either of these young ladies will be able to demonstrate the sufficient level of need which would cause this board to voluntarily commit any of our limited resources to them, but you are certainly welcome to apply again in the future."

Responding to Mr. Cook's statement that funding would be provided upon individual requests on an as needed basis, I stated that this basis overlooks the fact that the entire male team is funded regardless of economic necessity. No male has ever been required to show need. This was the first time the as-needed position had ever been mentioned by the Iowa Golden Gloves. It has never sent out a letter to clubs offering to fund women on an as needed basis.

On December 13, 2002, the Des Moines Register printed an article by Jeff Eckhoff regarding these issues. The article stated that "Iowa Golden Gloves President Don Avant counters that the local organization never promised anything, 'and I don't think we're obligated to.' Only two of 31 Golden Gloves organizations nationwide do what Klinefelter is asking, Avant said." Mr. Avant was further quoted as saying, "This is something that's been going on since 1938, the men.That is what our funds are based on, and the women is something that's just come about in the past couple of years.. If no one else sends their girls, then why should we have to?"

Even Mr. Avant would admit that two other Golden Gloves franchises funded women for the National Golden Gloves, so his statement is incorrect. If they can fund women, why can't the Iowa Golden Gloves? Mr. Avant's argument represents a fallacy of logic. Just because everyone engages in improper behavior does not make it correct. There was a time in America when Blacks were denied equal rights under the same theory.

The article also stated "Connors, the 79-year old retired president of the Iowa organization, also is an Iowa State lawmaker who once proposed an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to include 'women' in the text and 'provide for equality of rights under the law.' Connors said he doesn't 'think there should be any difference' between male and female boxers 'as long as they meet the damn requirements.'" The Iowa Golden Gloves has never mentioned to female boxers what the "requirements" are, if they exist. Its own June 10, 2002 letter stated it had not planned or mentioned the Women's Nationals to clubs, nor was it in the entry blanks. The Iowa Golden Gloves never had any intention of promoting, encouraging, or fostering participation of females or providing equal opportunity by sending any females to the Nationals.

I asked Iowa Amateur Boxing (IAB) President Ken Buffington (who also has a conflict of interest affecting his judgment because he is also a board member of the Iowa Golden Gloves) whether IAB would fund the Women's National Golden Gloves. Mr. Buffington responded that "IAB is not the franchise holder for GG. We will not infringe on their area and will not fund any monies to attend the Jr. GG or the Women's GG." That e-mail was copied by Mr. Buffington to Don Avant. I asked, if Don Avant did not have a problem with Iowa Amateur Boxing funding the women, would Mr. Buffington do so, copying the e-mail to Mr. Avant. Mr. Avant provided no response. Mr. Buffington responded the next day stating "We will not fund Women's GG. Final." This statement was apparently made without a board meeting or a vote.

Contrary to Mr. Buffington's representations, a recent review of documents at the Iowa Athletic Commissioner's office reveal that Iowa Amateur Boxing did indeed fund female boxer Heather Curtis and her coach Johnny McMurray (member of the Board of Directors of Iowa Amateur Boxing) to the 2000 National Golden Gloves tournament held in Augusta, Georgia from August 8 to August 12, 2000. This fact was never revealed by Mr. Buffington and contradicts his statements above.

What makes Mr. Buffington's refusal to assist with funding for the 2002 Golden Gloves even more problematic is the fact that Iowa Amateur Boxing's 2001-2002 grant closeout reflects that it reverted $971.31 back to the state for money not spent. Yet, the Iowa Amateur Boxing grant request states that "Iowa Amateur Boxing is trying to assist more open division boxers to be able to travel to national tournaments." If this is the case, why then did it return money to the state when it could have been used to assist travel to the Golden Gloves nationals?

At the August 25, 2002 annual Iowa Amateur Boxing meeting, Mr. Buffington represented that 65% of USA Boxing's budget was spent on women. This is not true. Sandy Martinez-Pino, Vice President of USA Boxing, informed me that "First whoever brought up the budget regarding women's boxing was 100% wrong. The budget for usa boxing is 3 million dollars per year. This year they budgeted 40,000 for the women's program and now that cuts were made that number went to 0." For what reason would Mr. Buffington make such a false representation about women's boxing other than to prejudice coaches against female boxers?

Amateur boxing is a mess that should be cleaned up for the boxers' sakes, because ultimately they are what this should all be about.


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