Episode 034- Nancy Hogshead-Makar, CEO of Champion Women

Nancy Hogshead-Makar

Content Warning: This episode contains a discussion of sexual assault and child molestation. There is no detail provided, however, I wanted to let you all know beforehand.

Nancy Hogshead-Makar is an Olympic gold medalist, attorney, CEO, women’s advocate, and changemaker. During the 1984 summer Olympics, she brought home 3 gold medals and one silver medal. She has truly made her mark, however, in her advocacy for girls and women in sport. Her career began as an intern at the Women’s Sports Foundation. She worked at a large law firm advocating for women’s rights to equal opportunity in sport in higher education (Title IX). A lover of education, she was a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law for 12 years, before she returned to WSF to be their Senior Director of Policy. Today she is the CEO of Champion Women, focusing on advocacy for women and girls in sport. Nancy was the driving force behind the creation of the US Center for SafeSport and the SafeSport Act. To say she is a badass would be an understatement. She speaks with Bobbi-Sue and gives a lesson on all things related to keeping children in sport safe and why the Olympic movement needs reform.

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Additional Show Notes:
  • Started by swimming because her parents didn’t want the kids to fall off the boat and drown- her first coach was Eddie Reese
  • Even though she was competitive, she did not start training until she was about 12 – Randy Reese then trained her in Jacksonville
  • At 15, she followed Randy to train fulltime at UF – her parents stayed in Jax while she was in Gainesville
  • She had been at a private high school in Jacksonville. When training she went to a public school that wasn’t as advanced and it was a hard transition for her from high school to Duke
  • She always liked politics and cheered for the underdog
  • She had some great professors at Duke who guided her towards political science and women’s studies – her life as a female athlete came in handy as it provided some context. She shares a story about telling her coach not to use her beating the guys as a way to motivate the guys.
  • When looking at colleges, she looked at who had scholarship offers – she was the lucky beneficiary of Title IX
  • At Duke, Nancy was running between the campuses and was attacked by a stranger and raped. She briefly tells the story about that and how it was handled by Duke. The community wrapped her up and wouldn’t let her fall. They did all the right things in helping her after the assault.
  • Nancy realized that until it gets better for all women, it wasn’t going to get better for her.
  • The women discuss the Nassar situation including former guest Morgan McCaul. Nancy describes a situation with her former Olympic Coach who at the age of 33 had a relationship with a 16-year-old teammate of Nancy’s.
  • Nancy started off working at a law firm doing Title IX work for girls who wanted to play sports and then Title IX moved into sexual assault in higher education so her work did as well.
  • She attempted to work with the USOC to help make changes but nothing stuck. The USOC would say that they had no duty to inform or protect against predators. Nancy believes that nothing would have happened but for the Nassar survivors being able to speak out about what happened to them.
  • People need to hear about the sexual harassment, abuse and violence – particularly young women and from women who are their role models and successful
  • Once the gymnasts spoke out, the US Center for SafeSport was created and they’ve received over 800 complaints. It needs more funding, though. USADA has a budget roughly 3 times as large as the Center.
  • The women speak about what happens when there is a sudden influx of complaints after someone publicly talks about their own experience. Bobbi-Sue compares it to a new skincare routine causing breakouts and purging the nastiness. The gymnasts speaking out helped others see that they could speak out and not be diminished by it.
  • Nancy educates us on false allegations – only 8%  – usually 3 categories of people who do bring false allegations and most defendants don’t ever know of it:
    • People who need resources (medical care, housing, mental health services)
    • Teenagers who give false allegations as a way to get out of trouble (usually parents bring to authorities and teen recants)
    • Profound mental illness
  • Most people don’t become famous for speaking out about sexual assault
  • Duke lacrosse case is such an outlier because of prosecutorial misconduct and the victim fits one of the categories above
  • Nancy started her career wondering where she could make her mark and so she worked at Women’s Sports Foundation
  • She left about 4 years ago and started Champion Women. They purposely don’t take money that has strings attached. The work over the past year has really focused on sexual abuse: working to get predators out of sport, and the SafeSport Act.
  • SafeSport Act makes everyone a mandatory reporter but if no one knows that… then it’s useless.
  • Next up for Nancy: USOC reform. Giving power to the athletes.
  • Self care: exercise

Nancy Hogshead-Makar swimming


Nancy Hogshead-Makar in her competitive swimming days

Quotable moments:

  • “By the time I was 14, I was number one in the world for all women.”
  • “I’ve always been someone who wanted to help somebody that the power structure wasn’t supportive of.”
  • “My dad’s a doctor and I thought ‘Oh, I’m going to be a doctor!’ Then I got a C in biology and I thought ‘Ah, I’m not going to be a doctor!”
  • “What I heard frequently, which I still think is bizarro is ‘I wouldn’t want to be in a dark alley with you.”
  • “I love academics so much I was a professor of law for 12 years.”
  • “I love it so much I have essentially indoctrinated my kids into thinking that it is the only school.”
  • “The name of the game was to humiliate me. It was not his own sexual pleasure.”
  • “For me to have lived and to have gotten out of there is one of my greatest accomplishments.”
  • “Right before I went into the police station, I gave myself a little talking to. I said ‘Now, Nancy, don’t cry now because you’ve got to be believed.”
  • “Thank goodness for all the feminists who came before me.”
  • “I never thought that I could be raped. I thought I was different than other women.”
  • “Sexism isn’t something that you can accomplish your way out of it. You’re part of that team. No matter what extraordinary thing that you do in your life. You are part of that team. So we have got to make it better for our sisters.”
  • “When the #metoo movement happened hopefully what people got out of that was that this is just a part of women’s lives. Sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and sexual violence … Everybody needs to know that this is a part of women’s lives”
  • “I think what those gymnasts did is they didn’t lose any status or power when they spoke. Whereas, a lot of women feel that the fear, shame, and humiliation are too overwhelming… “
  • “False allegations, of course, are very different from allegations that just can’t be proven.”
  • “Too many overuse injuries is a sign of shitty coaching.”

Follow the Leader:

Extra Credit Reading/Watching:

Nancy Hogshead-Makar speaking

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