Tennis Hall of Fame not acting on Bob Hewitt
Story appereared in the Boston Globe – author Bob Hohler, 21 May 2012 – NEWPORT, R.I. – Visitors to the International Tennis Hall of Fame find centuries of the sport’s history at their fingertips – interactive tributes to 220 stars such as Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf, Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson.
When they reach a touch-screen display honoring South African tennis legend Bob Hewitt, they learn he was one of the most “enduringly elegant’’ doubles players of all time. There is no mention of Hewitt’s purported secret life.
Missing is any reference to the nearly dozen women on three continents who last year accused him of sexually abusing them between the 1970s and early 1990s when he was their coach and they were underage.
Nine months after the hall announced it would investigate the allegations – “We’re going to be diligent about it and see what we can discover,’’ vowed Tony Trabert, the hall’s president at the time – it turns out there is no inquiry. Executive director Mark Stenning told the Globe that the hall scrapped the investigation in favor of drafting a policy to address similar issues. He said the board will consider the proposal, which he declined to explain, in July.
The decision, a striking contrast to the US Gymnastic Hall of Fame’s swift expulsion last year of an inductee facing sexual abuse allegations, has angered Hewitt’s alleged victims and several prominent former players.
“Sadly, people are afraid to stand up for right, good, and honesty,’’ said Heather Crowe Conner, who had just turned 15 in 1976 when Hewitt, then playing for the Boston Lobsters, allegedly first had sex with her near the tennis courts at Masconomet Regional High School. “They are afraid of hurting people. But the person they are protecting is not the one who needs protecting.’’
To the women and those who support them, the hall of fame’s backpedaling is emblematic of leaders throughout professional tennis distancing themselves from Hewitt’s alleged misconduct and the women’s pain. The scandal looms as the tennis community prepares for the spring and summer classics – the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open – and the hall of fame’s annual induction ceremony in July.
Hewitt, 72, has not been charged with a crime. The statute of limitations has expired in the United States on most of the allegations. The statute does not apply in South Africa, where the National Prosecuting Authority is investigating complaints from at least five of Hewitt’s former tennis students. The women filed the complaints after a Globe report last September detailed Hewitt’s history of alleged sexual misconduct.