Another sex scandal emerges out of Chicago, Blackhawks land back in hot water!


Chris Gosselin

The Chicago Blackhawks are being sued by Nina Sanders, a Native American woman who worked for the team. She is suing the Blackhawks and its charity, the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation—accusing them of breach of oral contract, fraud and sexual harassment, per CBS News.

Back in 2020, Sanders was brought on to build relationships between the team and the Native American community, but instead claims she was pushed out.

“I opened doors for the Blackhawks because people wouldn’t work with them,” said Sanders in an exclusive interview with interview with CBS Chicago.

She had hopes that, amongst other things, the team would change their name, but have kept it saying they are honoring Black Hawk—a real Native American person and war leader from Illinois.

In May 2021, Sanders set up a meeting with team chief executive officer Danny Wirtz, and claims she was lied to:

“She said based on her conversations with him, she believed the team would change the logo and she told the community that too.

But months later, in August 2021, the team and the Sac and Fox Nation formed a partnership. The tribe then reversed its stance on the logo, and passed a new resolution proclaiming support of the Chicago Blackhawks’ use of it.”

Sanders is no longer working for the team and she states it isn’t only because of the logo situation. She also alleges breach of oral contract, fraud, sexual harassment and violation of the Gender Violence Act, among other allegations. This is what she told CBS about the sexual harassment and being touched without her consent:

“In the lawsuit, Sanders said she was sexually harassed in 2022 by a man working with the organization. The lawsuit accuses him of “inappropriate sexual advances,” touching her “without her consent”, and also of sending her unwanted “sexually explicit videos of him” on Snapchat.

The lawsuit also said Sanders verbally reported two other incidents of women being groped at Blackhawks events by men working with the organization.

Nina alleges she complained about all these incidents to her supervisor, the director of the team’s charitable arm, the Chicago Blackhawks Foundation. But the lawsuit said nothing was done, and instead the team attempted to silence her by changing her role and moving her out of the United Center.

“I repeated it over and over, and that’s really when I felt like I started to get pushed out,” said Sanders. “That was the beginning of the retaliation and discrimination.”

According to the Hawks however, they conducted an internal investigation of Sanders’ allegations, that found “the alleged incidents of sexual harassment were not disclosed” until after her contract wasn’t renewed.

Wirtz declined to be interviewed for this story. The organization did however provide the following statements to CBS Chicago:

Addressing our commitments with the Native American community:

Our organizational commitment to Native American communities extends beyond our walls. For more than a decade, the Chicago Blackhawks have worked to deepen relationships and align our efforts with our namesake Black Hawk’s ancestral tribe, the Sac & Fox Nation, and other Native American communities. Presently, we engage five formal partners and more than 15 advisory relationships to help guide our programming. This work includes grant programs, collaborative exhibits and installations, language preservation projects, game day materials, our land acknowledgement and resources invested in identifying future opportunities.

As part of these collaborations, community leaders, elected council members and a formal advisory committee help establish our organization’s priorities, regularly evaluating our collaborative action in support of the Native American people and their culture. We are as committed as ever to this partnership and look forward to sharing details on upcoming initiatives, their community impact and furthering the education of our fans and the general public.

In response to Ms. Sanders work contract with the Chicago Blackhawks:

From 2020 to 2023, Ms. Sanders assisted the Chicago Blackhawks Native American efforts as an independent contractor, one of many partners and advisors in a support function. As part of her role, Ms. Sanders was asked to support specific initiatives in partnership with the Sac & Fox Nation and other Native American communities. Although the Chicago Blackhawks valued the consulting relationship with Ms. Sanders, the organization had noted operational issues in her work, and had received feedback from external partners that they did not want to continue to work with her. As such, in June 2023, based on specific initiatives slated for the upcoming season, the organization made an effort to extend her contract, with very specific deliverables, commensurate with work and responsibilities needed. Although initially agreeable to the new terms, Ms. Sanders ultimately made the decision not to renew her contract and has not worked with the organization since.

After contract negotiations dissolved, Ms. Sanders shared her frustrations with the organization over the working relationship, and introduced noted allegations, none of which had been shared by Ms. Sanders at any time during her engagement with the Chicago Blackhawks. Notably, shortly prior to her contract ending, Ms. Sanders shared correspondence with Chicago Blackhawks executives, praising the organization for their efforts with Native American communities alongside the leaders responsible for that work.

As a point of clarity, the Chicago Blackhawks have had working relationships with members of the Sac & Fox Nation for more than 10 years. This relationship ultimately led to the formal partnership discussions with Sac & Fox Nation that began in 2020.

In response to harassment allegations made by Ms. Sanders:

The Chicago Blackhawks have a zero tolerance policy for misconduct and take allegations of harassment in the workplace very seriously. In response to Ms. Sanders’ allegations, the organization immediately conducted a thorough investigation with the assistance of outside counsel, including interviews with internal and external parties, and review of pertinent materials and digital records. Based on the information available to us, we found insufficient evidence to substantiate her claims. Of note, the persons identified by Ms. Sanders in your question are not, and have never been, independent contractors with nor employees of the Chicago Blackhawks.

This comes just a day after Kyle Beach gave his blessing for former head coach Joel Quenneville to be reinstated in the NHL. Quenneville hasn’t coached in the NHL since 2021 when he resigned from his head coaching position with the Florida Panthers, after it was alleged that he was negligent and culpable in the Brad Aldrich sexual assault scandal from his time with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Quenneville was technically suspended by the NHL in the wake of the allegations and would need to seek reinstatement from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before he could take employment with a team.

The focus might now shift back to Chicago for different reasons, however, just as disturbing.

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Source: CBS