Mike DeSabato was the one of the first whistleblowers to come forward and report sexual misconduct carried out by the Ohio State wrestling team’s doctor, Richard Strauss. DiSabato, who says that Dr. Strauss sexually abused him and other members of the wrestling team, also told The Columbus Dispatch that Representative Jim Jordan knew all about the abuse. The alleged abuse took place when Jordan was the assistant coach of the wrestling team.
On July 4, a source in Jordan’s office told CNN that Jordan would ask Capitol Hill police about emails that DiSabato had sent to Jordan. CNN reportedly saw at least one of the emails, dated April 24, which was about the sexual abuse scandal. CNN’s source said that Jordan Jordan did not respond to the emails because he felt that DiSabato was “bullying him.”
DiSabato told The Columbus Dispatch that Jordan was a “coward” who didn’t dare stop Dr. Richard Strauss from molesting members of the team. DiSabato said, “He knew, did know, and it’s very disappointing that he has now denied knowledge, not once, but twice. I’ve never known Jim Jordan to be a coward, frankly, but this shows that his own interest in seeking higher office is more important than the health, safety and wellbeing of his friends and athletes who competed for him and with him.”
DiSabato said that Strass, who has passed away, probably abused at least 1000 athletes at OSU. “Dr. Strauss was a serial offender of making athletes remove their pants for a nose cold, a knee sprain, an elbow bruise,” DiSabato told WOSU radio.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. DiSabato Comes From a Family of Wrestlers
During his time at Ohio State, DiSabato won the Big Ten’s Medal of Honor. That award is handed out every year to a student who excels at both sports and athletics. He was on the wrestling team from 1987 to 1991.
DiSabato has six brothers, and five of them were also wrestlers on the Ohio State team. His brother Adam was inducted into the OSU Hall of Fame in 2006. Another brother, Dominic, is now the wrestling coach at Hilliard Davidson. And Dominic’s son, Gio, who was a junior in high school last year, was in the OHSAA State Wrestling Tournament as the #1 seed in his 120-lb. weight class.
2. DiSabato Has a History of Legal Disputes with Ohio State University
DiSabato runs a sports licensing company. He works with a lot of OSU athletes to sell athletic merchandise. He also works with UFC fighters, notably Chuck Liddell.
In 2001, DiSabato’s company, Silver Knight, signed a licensing agreement with OSU. But in 2006, DiSabato ran afoul of Ohio State University’s administration. In December 2006, he complained to The Columbus Dispatch that the university was considering a deal with Nike Inc. The deal would have given Nike exclusive rights to jerseys, one of Silver Knight’s specialities. DiSabato complained to the Dispatch that, if Nike signed a contract with the university, it would destroy more than half of Silver Knight’s sales.
The university went ahead and signed the contract anyway. And then, soon after the Dispatch published DiSabato’s complaint, OSU terminated its licensing deal with Silver Knight. DiSabato then sued the university, claiming the school wrongly terminated its deal because of his outspoken behavior. He was forced to settle the case, with Silver Knight ordered to sell its inventory and hand over 20 percent of the profit to OSU.
DiSabato’s current company is called the Lutte Licensing Group.
3. DiSabato Joined a Class Action Suit Against OSU’s Use of Athletes’ Images
In 2017, DiSabato formed a sports and entertainment company, Profectus Group Inc, along with OSU football star Chris Spielman. Profectus was involved in a class action lawsuit against Ohio State in 2017. The suit charged that OSU was illegally using athletes’ images to earn money for the school, without getting the permission of the athletes first.
DiSabato has advocated for student athletes to be allowed to win their own endorsements on the open market.
Profectus is no longer a part of that lawsuit.
4. As a Graduate Student DiSabato Researched “Locker Room Culture” at OSU
After his undergraduate degree, DiSabato returned to Ohio State to get a Masters in public policy at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. DiSabato focused his research on on “locker room culture” at Ohio State. He said he presented his research to Jim Jones, who was OSU’s athletic director at the time. But DiSabato said Jones dismissed the research.
“It wasn’t something that I felt, at the time, that he was interested in hearing about,” DiSabato told WOSU.
5. Someone Created a Parody Twitter Account for DiSabato
DiSabato’s own twitter account seems to have been taken down. But a parody account, calling itself @CageFighterMike, created back in 2013, lives on.
The account’s personal description pokes fun at DiSabato’s reputation for getting involved in lawsuits and for generally being very combative and competitive. It says, “Founder of a lot of companies with legal troubles but it is cool because I am the only one that pays athlete, sometimes. Parody.”