Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blogfight Armaggedon: Tony Austin (and Sarah Gjerstad) vs John Leonard

Tony Austin never shies away from a fight. So when John Leonard went on the offensive after Tony referenced a blog post that questioned ASCA's legitimacy, Tony dug in. Since then Tony has received a series of what he deems "threatening" e-mails from Leonard, the lot of which he promises to post today at 12 pm ET on his blog. This should be good.

Sarah Gjerstad is digging in too. She is the blogger who originally raised questions about ASCA on her Curb Northside ISD blog.

As you might be able to guess from the name of her blog, Sarah got involved because she is fighting against the construction of swim stadium using funds from the Northside Integrated School District (NISD). In her original post, entitled "The Ubiqitous George Block", Sarah wrote:

"ASCA is listed as a foreign corporation in Florida.  Foreign, in corporation lingo, means not incorporated in the state...Their annual reports to Florida state they are incorporated in Iowa...John Leonard registered in Iowa in 1968 but was terminated in 1992 for failure to file reports. ASCA has lapsed corporate status in Iowa so there may be no government oversight into their finances"

Tony quickly picked it up in his blog. What followed was a string of increasingly agitated e-mails from Leonard. You can read them for yourself here.

You can judge for yourself but it seems clear that there is one person acting rationally and unemotionally on this issue and one that is not. John Leonard seems determined to bully both bloggers into submission and increasingly frustrated that it is not working. I wonder if he will come for us next for posting this blog reference.

If the statements about ASCA are false and none of us understand what a 501-6C is, why doesn't Leonard just explain this? His response is the kind of response you get from people who are used to always getting their way in a certain context. They believe they are beyond reproach and asking them to explain something is tantamount to a full scale attack. I make no statements about the validity of ASCA but I am uncomfortable with the leader of America's largest coaching organization behaving this way.

As a veteran internet user who's had plenty of bad things said about him, let me offer Leonard this advice (if he's reading). If someone lies about you on the internet, take it as a compliment. It means they are very jealous and are lashing out as best they can. Your best defense is to show them how wrong they are not with a fiery attack and lawyers but to engage the internet readers in whatever forum is available. Show people how polite and rational you are. Show how the facts about you are wrong. Any rational person reading the same blog will realize that you are a nice, rational person and the individual attacking you must be a total crazy.

This only works if they're lying, of course.


  1. Who'd say anything bad about those handsome Swim Brief Guys? I feel that I'm in the same boat in that "I make no statements about the validity of ASCA but I am uncomfortable with the leader of America's largest coaching organization behaving this way." I think what the ASCA needs to do is apologize for his comments and then draw up a grown up letter by lawyers on the issue. No one needs to threaten to sue but say why they believe what is posted is wrong. End of story.

  2. In my opinion, there's got to be something wrong with an organization who only allows coach MEMBERS to file complaints against other coach MEMBERS.

  3. Maybe just maybe Coach Leonard got tired of all the half truths and untruths being written about folks in the swimming establishment. Not condoning his actions necessarily but I'm just saying. Anyway, are any of us knowledgeable enough in legal intricacies to know if any laws have been violated by the ASCA? when I check out the State of Florida website I see year after year of seemingly proper filings as well as federal 990's having been filed, so I am not sure what the issue is. The ASCA is not some fly by night money-making scheme Coach Leonard came up with, it has been around since the late 50's. He doesn't own it or SwimAmerica. Not sure what the issue is here except some very heated rhetoric.

  4. I've got opinions on both men involved in this issue. I'll keep them to myself.

    In terms of this issue specifically:

    1) I think that TA probably should have consulted someone with legal knowledge of corporations prior to reposting. At the least, it would have made his case look a lot stronger. Not sure whether he's right or not, but I have enough experience with corporate entities to know that nothing that the links to FL and Iowa are, at best, hints of a bigger problem, but definitely not the smoking gun that they've been presented as. The reason that corporate attorneys exist in the first place is that these things are not "just that simple" to understand.

    2) JL is obviously frustrated, and should have known better than to let that show to someone he knew would repost every email he sent. If his plan was to lawyer up, he should've done it after the first request for retraction email was sent, and then had the lawyers handle it from there forward.

    3) So, the deadline has past. Has anything been filed? Given that I've got no dog in the fight, I almost hope that it goes to court. I think those of his who sit neutrally would be very curious as to what would be revealed from both sides.

  5. *Grabs Bucket of Popcorn*

    Time for the show!