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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former Bucknell University head coach and current USA Water Polo (USAWP) High Performance Director John Abdou is among 44 members of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), Athletes’ Advisory Council, National Governing Bodies and the U.S. Olympians & Paralympians Association comprising the Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice.

The athlete-led council, formed to address the rules and systems in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements that create barriers to progress, is committed to working collaboratively to provide solutions and recommendations with the aim of eradicating social injustice and cultivating change through strengthened athlete voices.

“We are grateful to this group of athletes and thought leaders who have joined the council, lending their perspective and dedication to help us confront the issues of racism and discrimination in sport and society,” said USOPC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sarah Hirshland. “It is important that we continue this work of elevating athlete voices and addressing limitations within our Olympic and Paralympic community. This past week, we witnessed athletes across the country demand change through both words and actions – showing they are a powerful force in the community. We look forward to coming together as one Team USA to reflect and identify solutions toward meaningful change.”

The product of athlete town halls, individual athlete discussions and ongoing meetings with outside experts about systemic racial and social injustice present in our country, the council will create pathways for dialogue, advocate for action and work toward implementing impactful change across the movements. The group will focus on four priorities:

  • The right to protest and demonstrations, to assess current policies and alternate options.
  • Athlete voice and advocacy, to empower athlete voices on Team USA platforms.
  • Institutional awareness and cultural change, to review USOPC and NGB diversity and hiring policies.
  • Racism and acts of discrimination, to enhance reporting and dispute resolution processes.

The 44-member council consists of 23 Team USA athletes, five Team USA alumni representatives, five NGB representatives, five USOPC liaisons and six external consultants and thought leaders – all serving in voluntary roles. Thirty-six individuals will sit on one of four subject-specific steering committees dedicated to addressing four areas of focus. Overseeing each of the four steering committees will be an eight-member leadership team, with the assistance of a distinguished team of outside experts. The council is currently supported by an additional group of community ambassadors featuring 26 Team USA athletes, alumni and USOPC and NGB/HPMO representatives, but with the ability to expand as interest grows.

A veteran collegiate and national team coach, Abdou was named High Performance Director of USA Water Polo on November 18, 2013. In February of 2017 he was promoted to Chief High Performance Officer. In this position Abdou oversees the Olympic Development Program in addition to coach education, events and growth. Working in unison with Senior National Team Head Coaches Adam Krikorian and Dejan Udovicic, Abdou oversees them in implementing their technical vision throughout ODP and the USA Water Polo club system. Abdou is currently co-chair of the USAWP Task Force on Racial Equity and Reform along with the legendary Brenda Villa.

Formerly the Associate Head Coach for men’s water polo at the University of California-Santa Barbara and Director/Boy’s Head Coach of the Santa Barbara Water Polo Club, Abdou began his post with USA Water Polo full-time following the conclusion of the 2013 men’s collegiate season. Prior to his time at UC-Santa Barbara, Abdou spent five years at Bucknell with the last two serving as head coach of both the men’s and women’s programs following a three year tenure as an assistant coach under John Zeigler. Within USA Water Polo, Abdou has remained active in the National Team pipeline in his position as ODP East Region Technical Director since 2008. Since 2010 he has also been a part of the coaching staff of the Men’s Senior National “B” Team.

A former social science teacher at Burbank High School, Abdou competed for the University of California-Irvine men’s water polo team earning his undergraduate degree in sociology in 2001. He added a masters degree in higher education from Bucknell in 2009.

The athlete-led council will identify areas for improvement and develop a set of recommendations with the goal of producing an action plan by early 2021.

The full council participant list can be found below.

Steering Committee: Institutional Awareness and Cultural Change
Tyler Carter, athlete, Para alpine skiing
Rachael Flatt, athlete, figure skating
Dawn Harper-Nelson, athlete, track and field
Anna Johannes, athlete, Para swimming
Alexander Young, athlete, track and field
John Abdou, NGB/HPMO, water polo
Candace Cable, USOPA, alumni
Adam Wood, USOPC, collegiate partnerships

Leadership Team
Greta Neimanas, athlete, Para-cycling
Jason Pryor, athlete, fencing
Moushaumi Robinson, athlete, track and field
Iris Zimmermann, USOPA, fencing
Max Siegel, NGB/HPMO, track and field
Judith B. Clarke, Vice President of Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at Stony Brook University/track and field
Scott Brooks, Associate Professor & Director (Interim), T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and Director of Research for the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University
Nicole Deal, USOPC, athlete safety and security

Steering Committee: Protests and Demonstrations
Race Imboden, athlete, fencing
Grace Latz, athlete, rowing
Colleen Quigley, athlete, track and field
Noah White, athlete, track and field
Kelsey Erickson, NGB/HPMO, cycling
John Carlos, USOPA, alumni
Guiselle Torres, USOPC, associate general counsel

Steering Committee: Athlete Voice and Advocacy
Anthony Ervin, athlete, swimming
Alyssa Fencil, athlete, Para taekwondo
Jamal Hill, athlete, Para swimming
Casandra Shaffer, athlete, swimming
Katie Uhlaender, athlete, skeleton
Suzy Sanchez, NGB/HPMO, weightlifting
Carol Lewis, USOPA, alumni
Amanda McGrory, Paralympian, USOPC archivist

Steering Committee: Institutional Awareness and Cultural Change
Tyler Carter, athlete, Para alpine skiing
Rachael Flatt, athlete, figure skating
Dawn Harper-Nelson, athlete, track and field
Anna Johannes, athlete, Para swimming
Alexander Young, athlete, track and field
John Abdou, NGB/HPMO, water polo
Candace Cable, USOPA, alumni
Adam Wood, USOPC, collegiate partnerships

Steering Committee: Racism and Acts of Discrimination
Tianna Bartoletta, athlete, track and field
Ben Bratton, athlete, track and field
Nzingha Prescod, athlete, fencing
Mystique Ro, athlete, skeleton
Stephanie Zundel, athlete, Para-cycling
Whitney Frye, NGB/HPMO, basketball
Jan Palchikoff, USOPA, alumni
Whitney Carter, USOPC, sport performance

Thought leaders
Tiffini Grimes, Deputy Athletics Director, Chief Diversity Officer, University of Alabama
Kenneth Shropshire, Adidas Distinguished Professor of Global Sport and CEO of Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University
Amy Wilson, Managing Director of Inclusion, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Yannick Kluch, Assistant Professor and Lead Faculty Consultant on Sport and Social Impact, Rowan University

Community Ambassadors
Sarah Bofinger, athlete, Para swimming
Stephanie Bruce, athlete, track and field
Kyra Condie, athlete, sport climbing
Joe Delagrave, athlete, wheelchair rugby
Cheta Emba, athlete, rugby
Kate Grace, athlete, track and field
Farrah Hall, athlete, sailing
Sam Mattis, athlete, track and field
Kristen Rose Morse, athlete, track and field
Rachel Schneider, athlete, track and field
Alex Shibutani, athlete, figure skating
Maia Shibutani, athlete, figure skating
Ariel Simmons, athlete, fencing
Isis Washington, athlete, fencing
Brandon Dyett, NGB/HPMO, fencing
Kelley Humphries, NGB/HPMO, Para powerlifting
Kelly Fox, NGB/HPMO, diving
Mariejo Truex, NGB/HPMO, swimming
Megan Ritch, NGB/HPMO, triathlon
Melissa Zhang, NGB/HPMO, team handball
Nancy Atufunwa, NGB/HPMO, water polo
Sara Studebaker-Hill, NGB/HPMO, biathlon
Erin Cafaro, USOPA, alumni
Sharon Ann Jewell, USOPA, alumni
Allison Wagner, USOPA, alumni
Terris Tiller, USOPC, athlete services

Information courtesy the United States Olympic Committee

Collegiate Water Polo Association