The USA Curling breakdown (2022, just before the schism)
Originally posted Sept. 27, 2022, with my apologies for its length.
I hadn’t planned to write anything about USA Curling outside Reddit, but I think it’s important to clear up a few things and reframe some of the discussion.
Let’s start with this. The following two things can be true, and they are true:
- USA Curling has every right to insist that its regional associations admit only USA Curling member clubs.
- USA Curling is likely violating its own bylaws, along with the USOPC’s bylaws and maybe even Wisconsin statutes, and souring its relationships with the curling community in the way it is pursuing the GNCC matter.
More detail …
USA Curling’s regional associations
One argument from GNCC and its backers is that one nonprofit can’t tell another to change its bylaws. Specifically, USA Curling can’t tell GNCC to kick out members who aren’t paying dues to USAC.
OK. But then GNCC can’t tell USAC to change its bylaws. Specifically, GNCC can’t tell USAC to accept it as the regional association of the national governing body.
Think of it this way. If you’re running the United Way, you can’t tell a specific charity how to keep its books — unless that charity wants to be part of the United Way.
Back in the realm of Olympic sports, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC, formerly USOC) is under pressure from Congress to have tighter control of things from the top down. USA Curling is beholden to the USOPC, which threatened it with decertification a few years ago because the national teams weren’t doing well enough, and it has a big audit coming up.
So USA Curling has every right, if not an outright responsibility, to demand that its regional associations toe the line. A lot of people in the GNCC orbit simply don’t get this.
Now here’s the problem for USA Curling (first, the legal part) …
USA Curling bylaws
First point: USA Curling is absolutely in the wrong when it comes to voting rights.
Potomac Curling Club (my club, but I’m not involved with this) has asserted that clubs do not need to leave GNCC and declare themselves “At-Large” to protect their votes in the upcoming Members Assembly, where USAC’s move to expel GNCC needs two-thirds approval and clearly will not get it without some shenanigans.
Another simple citation here from USCA Bylaws, Section 10.4. — Member’s Vote: Regional Curling Associations, At-Large Clubs, and Member Clubs which are Members of USA Curling in good standing shall be entitled to vote at the meeting of the Members’ Assembly in accordance with USA Curling policy.
Mediate, alleviate, arbitrate …
Where was I? Oh, right. Not listening to an INXS single from back in the day.
Joe Calabrese writes, and I’ve heard from elsewhere, that USAC rejected the idea of an independent mediator.
There’s a difference, of course, between mediation and arbitration. In the latter, USAC won’t have a choice. USOPC bylaws make that quite clear, and if it somehow doesn’t come up with the current fiasco, it will come up when an athlete from a club that has left the inner circle isn’t allowed to play in a national championship. Or when clubs move to decertify USA Curling.
Now or later?
As explained above, USA Curling can demand that GNCC expel members who aren’t USAC members.
But can USA Curling’s board and staff demand GNCC’s ouster now?
I think not.
In December 2020, a special Members Assembly approved Bylaw 5.0, a temporary amnesty on dues for clubs that had shut down during COVID.
The policy outlining why GNCC is facing the boot is USCA Policy 21–08 (5.d.i): “The date of compliance shall be January 31st of the current year using the final membership numbers provided by USA Curling.”
But given the one-year amnesty, dues were only in arrears as of Jan. 31, 2022, not 2021. USCA Policy 21–08 (5.d.ii) states that punishment kicks in one year later. That would be Jan. 31, 2023. In fact, you could make an argument under USCA Policy 21–08 (5.d.iii) that the Regional Association’s membership cannot be terminated until the end of the next fiscal year, which would be June 30, 2023.
So GNCC should have another year. (Disclaimer: Not a lawyer.)
The question: How would everyone use that extra year?
The way forward
There’s no evidence is anyone is really talking here. The point of the member uprising should be to change that.
And the discussion should center on answering these questions …
What are the roles of a national federation and a regional association?
I asked this on Reddit a month ago, noting that GNCC charges much more than Minnesota charges and also provides many more services. Great, if you’re taking advantage of those services. If you’re not, you (I) may be wondering why you’re paying so much to two organizations that haven’t sorted out who’s in charge of training, playdowns, insurance and whatnot.
Can USA Curling redefine “membership”?
A bylaw proposal from Orlando (with assistance from elsewhere) essentially eliminates club memberships in favor of individual memberships. Personally, I’m uneasy with this, in part because it makes voting an absolute ******. Like Joe Calabrese, I’d prefer a model akin to what USA Fencing does, offering a hybrid model of club and individual memberships. (I spelled it out in another long Reddit post.)
Either way, though, a discussion of what constitutes membership is worth having.
Can USA Curling regain enough trust to remind people of its importance?
As someone with more than a passing familiarity with international sports governance (hey, stay awake!), I’ve been frustrated that a lot of the discussion on the topic has compared GNCC with USA Curling. That’s apples and oranges. Or apples and bicycles. (In a Reddit post, I said “ice cream to concrete.”)
Did GNCC weather the COVID storm financially better than USA Curling? Sure. That’s because GNCC basically had no expenses. USA Curling has obligations that don’t go away.
And it’s important to have a strong national body. That’s how you effectively market the sport, a large chunk of USAC’s budget. That’s how you get your sport on TV, another large chunk of the budget. That’s how you can potentially build a grassroots foundation akin to the US Soccer Foundation, which was spun off from (and later sued over IP, but that’s another story) the US Soccer Federation. That’s how you make sure your sport is covered in SafeSport’s databases, and that’s how you build strong national teams from the grassroots up.
Hopefully, USA Curling will do a better job with the TV aspect of it and be more responsive to its members.
Then, hopefully, its members will rally around it.