The Amateur Athletic Union youth basketball system has long faced accusations of adults exploiting players for their own benefit, but never have the charges been as disturbing as what’s being alleged against AAU President Bobby Dodd.
ESPN’s Tom Farrey broke the news that two former players in Dodd’s pre-AAU basketball programs (before Dodd joined the AAU as president in 1992, and before Dodd operated AAU teams in his native Memphis) are accusing the 63-year-old Dodd of being a pedophile.
Dodd is not commenting on the charges. Memphis police say they are investigating. The AAU says Dodd no longer has his job as president and executive director.Dodd isn’t just a paper-pusher in a league office. He’s one of the most influential figures in the sport of basketball in America. And not necessarily a good influence, either — even before these accusations emerged. From Farrey:
Under Dodd, the AAU has added national championships down to the second grade level. By catering to travel teams for children, Dodd has doubled the AAU’s membership in the past 10 years and attracted major sponsors, including ESPN The Magazine, which coaches can sell to raise funds for their programs.
The AAU has also fortified its position within the culture of its primary sport — basketball. Last year, Dodd joined the advisory board of iHoops, the official youth basketball initiative of the NCAA and NBA, which promotes coach certification. AAU is also an affiliate of USA Basketball, the governing body of the sport.
As AAU president, Dodd has resisted pleas by leaders within the youth sports industry to adopt mandatory background checks on coaches. Still, AAU rules forbid the participation of any coach or administrator facing potentially credible allegations of sexual misconduct.
It’s unclear if the AAU took any action internally with Dodd after it received the email note from [accuser Ralph] West. [AAU first vice president Louis Stout, who is the AAU’s interim president] said nothing was shared with him, and he’s never heard of Dodd being involved with sexual abuse.
This isn’t the first time Farrey’s writing has raised questions about Dodd. In his excellent 2009 book “Game On,” an in-depth look at the youth-sports industrial complex, Farrey devoted a chapter to Dodd’s stewardship of the AAU, and how odd it was he was entrusted with the organization’s money despite his own personal financial problems, including a bankruptcy filing.
However, people within the system loved Dodd because he was the one who dragged the formerly above-it-all AAU down to the gutter to maximize making money off of kids. From Farrey’s book: “Youth sports is a business,” Dodd said. “Across America, it’s a business.”
Also in Farrey’s book, he details how Dodd, single with no children, ingratiated himself into the lives of poor, black youth basketball players in Memphis, opening his home and wallet to them. Among the players expressing his thanks: former NBA star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. I’m curious if he has anything to say as this story unfolds.