USA Skateboarding has placed executive committee member Neal Hendrix on interim suspension following allegations of improper sexual contact with a then-14-year-old skateboarder. Hendrix is under police investigation for the same allegations.
Professional skateboarder Julie Lynn Kindstrand Nelson, who goes by "Julz Lynn," detailed the allegations to the Costa Mesa (California) Police Department on Oct. 11, providing a detective with a six-page letter describing interactions with Hendrix. The letter, also provided to espnW, states that when she was between the ages of 14 and 15 and Hendrix was in his early 30s, she performed sex acts on him at his request. The letter also states that he masturbated in front of her, photographed and took videos of her while she was naked and showed her pornography involving underage girls.
In an interview with espnW on Tuesday, Kindstrand Nelson, now 25, said she provided the same document to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee. "I wanted to make sure that everybody in the skateboarding community is aware of what's going on," Kindstrand Nelson said. "For so long, so many people turned a blind eye."
A spokesperson for the Costa Mesa Police Department confirmed that it is investigating Hendrix. As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed, and the spokesperson declined further comment.
In an email to the Wall Street Journal, Hendrix said "the claims are 100% false."
On USA Skateboarding's website, Hendrix, 45, is listed as "athlete representative, executive committee." He's also listed as chairman of the judicial committee and as being a member of the nominating and governance committee.
Hendrix has been an integral figure in skateboarding's entry into the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The pro skateboarder, who won multiple X Games medals in vert skateboarding in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is the worldwide brand manager for the action sports and gymnastics company Camp Woodward, which is owned by POWDR Corp., one of the largest ski resort operations in North America. According to his LinkedIn profile, Hendrix lists himself as a professional photographer and a color commentator for the Vans Park Series. He has also worked as a skateboard broadcast commentator for NBC, ESPN, Red Bull and CBS Sports Network.
Kindstrand Nelson's letter provides an exhaustive examination of incidents that she says happened while she was pursuing a professional skateboarding career. She says Hendrix groomed her over time, taking advantage of a period of grief after her grandparents died. She says she and Hendrix met at a California skatepark in 2006, when he was in his early 30s. She told espnW that she viewed him as a friend and a mentor. Not long after they met, Hendrix started bringing her to his apartment for what he called "sex lessons," she said in her letter. She said the sexual misconduct lasted until 2008.
Kindstrand Nelson turned pro in 2007 and has been a regular on the contest scene ever since. She took bronze in skateboard park at the 2013 X Games in Barcelona and won the 2009 and 2014 Combi Pool Classic. Although she says the sexual misconduct stopped in 2008, she continued to encounter Hendrix at skateboarding events throughout her career. In a statement about the allegations posted on her Facebook account, Kindstrand Nelson said she is "excited to make [her] comeback in skateboarding."
"My experience with Neal was very traumatic," Kindstrand Nelson told espnW. "It has taken me several years to process what happened to me and many more years to find the courage to stand up and say something. I hope that other young girls who dream of being competitive athletes do not suffer the same fate.
"As young athletes, girls are very susceptible to sexual predators."
SafeSport is an organization that "provides services to sport entities on abuse prevention techniques, policies and programs and provides a safe, professional and confidential place for individuals to report sexual abuse within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements."
A spokesperson for SafeSport said it's the Center's policy to not comment on "specific matters ... It's something we do not deviate from in accordance with best practices for victim-centered response and professionalism in investigations." On SafeSport's website, a search for Neal Hendrix shows that he was put on interim suspension on Oct. 19 for "allegations of misconduct."
In a statement provided to espnW, Gary Ream, chairman of USA Skateboarding, the national governing body for the sport under the USOC, said, "USA Skateboarding is fully cooperating with the U.S. Center for SafeSport's investigation on the allegations placed upon Neal Hendrix. The safety of the athletes, staff and board members is our number one priority, and we support SafeSport's decision of an interim suspension while the investigation is being conducted."
A spokesperson for Camp Woodward said Tuesday that when the organization learned of the allegations, it placed Hendrix on administrative leave while SafeSport conducts its investigation.