Rafael Ruano Weighs in on Petition to Fire USA Water Polo’s Graff, Ramsey

Photo Courtesy: US Naval Academy

In an extraordinary action, select members of the American water polo community have set up a petition demanding that Christopher Ramsey, USA Water Polo CEO, and Michael Graff, USAWP Board Chair, step down.

[Water Polo Olympians Start Petition Demanding Removal of USA Water Polo CEO, Board Chairman]

usawpAmong the signers are some of the more notable names in the sport, headlined by a group of luminaries including Christopher Duplanty, three-time Olympian (1988, 1992, 1996); Erika Figge; NCAA champion with USC (2004); Liz Grimes, former U.S. National Team Member, USAWP Associate Sports Development Officer and longtime member of the national team staff; Lynn Kachmarik, former national team member, USAWP board member, former head coach for the Bucknell men’s program; Andrew McDonald, two-time selection for the men’s Olympic team (1980, 1984); Rachel Scott Ruano, Olympian (2004); one time USAWP board member and long-time coach for American River Water Polo Club; and Rafael Ruano, President and Founder of the American River Water Polo Club and since 2002 Member of Central California Zone Board.

It must be noted, not all signers are responding to the allegations presented by the petition; names such as “Bring Back Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes” and “UaszjeWrFb” are listed alongside many long-time polo supporters.

Rafael Ruano agreed to respond to Swimming World’s questions about what the petition is intended to accomplish and how this latest attempt to reform the national governing body in the sport.

– There has long been grumbling among membership regarding the extended tenure of Board Chair Mike Graff and CEO Chris Ramsey. Why have you and your group chosen now to go public with your allegations?

The facts in the OC Register stories were partially known to those of us that created the petition, but the articles combined all the parts we have known and, with investigative rigor, compiled it into damning narratives of the failures of this leadership group.

– The timing is noteworthy because Mr. Graff is stepping down this month as board chair. Is there an expectation that your petition will not only get Ramsey replaced but also influence who gets to lead the USAWP board?

The Assembly scheduled for the end of the month [January 30th]  is relevant, but we also wanted to get our information straight and making sure that we were completely confident of the information we shared in the petition.

– If you don’t get a response, is there a plan to engage USAWP membership to force a change at the upcoming USAWP General Assembly? Nothing has been determined along those lines.

Hard to say…

– One of the respondents on your petition—an anonymous poster—has said that the charges you levy are “[a] completely unacceptable response to a horrific series of abuses. The actions of those in charge of USA Water Polo are negligent.” How do you respond to this?

Well, that is certainly what is being alleged in the pending lawsuits and the second article about the Chicago official sexual harassment certainly points to a pattern of poor handling of these types of issues.

– There’s no questions that the allegations in the Bahram Hojreh case are damning. What makes this case challenging is that for years he was a respected member of USAWP’s most competitive zone. How do you assess Mr. Hojreh’s situation—especially given that he has yet to be convicted of any crime?

I can’t asses his situation other than he has completely lost any credibility that he may have had – and he has for a long time had a dubious reputation as evidenced by his showing up on USAWP radar as early as 2009

– As you look at the response to your poll—and member’s frustration with USAWP leadership—what will be your next steps, especially in light of the serious allegations of abuse about one of your own, and the criticism of USAWP’s response to this?

Speaking for myself, I think that there are many that care deeply about this sport and about having an organization and leadership represent the sport in the USA and internationally that we can be proud of. I’m not giving up and if this effort fails I will evaluate the options available then.

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