Dear roller derby community,
When our beloved sport was founded in Austin, Texas more than a decade ago, it was clear that this was the start of something truly special. The incredible DIY spirit of our community, the revolutionary actions of groundbreaking women, and the powerful voices of athletes from a diverse spectrum of identities helped roller derby grow into something more celebrated and inclusive.
As the sport itself has changed, from minor penalties to Roller Derby World Cups and from the birth of National Governing Bodies to a revitalized Officiating Certification, the WFTDA has grown rapidly — along with our partner organizations, the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) and the Junior Roller Derby Association (JRDA).
Our collective growth has happened so quickly, in fact, that our policies and culture no longer serve the needs of our community, nor do they keep all members feeling safe and welcome.
Athletes, officials, and support staff have rightfully called out the WFTDA, the MRDA, and the JRDA for issues of ignorance, abuse, lack of inclusiveness, and lack of empathy for our community’s needs. We have been listening. We have heard the call to do better and are working to find ways to collaborate together so we can make roller derby safer for everyone.
What we have not done is clearly communicate that exclusion, abuse, harassment, and discrimination are not tolerable.
It is time to do so.
We are initiating a cross-organizational effort to investigate, develop, educate, improve reporting requirements, and implement more inclusive, and more proactive anti-abuse, anti-harassment, and anti-discrimination policies — policies that are worthy of the revolutionary sport that we have built. These policies will be supported by educational resources for our organizations, and for the roller derby community worldwide.
WFTDA, MRDA, and JRDA events are natural starting points for strengthening event-based Codes of Conduct. JRDA is leading the way with a clear and mandated Code of Conduct and an anti-bullying program; they are reinvesting in United We Skate Against Bullying to help share resources for tackling issues of bullying across our community by providing support and educational tools to all members. The WFTDA is currently reworking both an event-based and a member-focused Code of Conduct over the next few months, and a streamlined grievance process. The MRDA has spent this past fall overhauling its grievance process and reporting functions to make it easier for members to feel confident about reporting any issues. The MRDA is also looking to expand its member league Code of Conduct with a section dedicated to sexual harassment and its reporting.
But beyond this, all of our organizations are looking to build a deeper commitment to safety and inclusiveness at the league level. We need our member leagues and supporting community to take issues of harassment, abuse, and discrimination seriously. We need to report abuses and believe survivors. We need to work collaboratively and creatively to find a system that offers dignity and compassion.
Together, our organizations recognize that we need a system for fielding and responding to these issues, and we must work hand-in-hand with our members to make that happen. We are turning to you — our athletes, officials, announcers, photographers, volunteers, fans, and our member leagues — for help.
As the WFTDA, the MRDA, and JRDA work together in the coming months to collaborate on policy, we challenge our member organizations to work on their own at the league and local levels. Several of our member leagues have made their policies public, and we encourage others to do the same.
For those of you who are members of a WFTDA league, we ask that you work with your Skater and Official Reps to take ideas back to the forum. As you know, our Reps are the cornerstone of the work that is done within our organizations, and this work is important.
For MRDA members, we encourage you to forward ideas to MRDA Central directly or through your League Reps. You are also welcome to reach out to the Member Relations Committee or Executive Board if preferred.
JRDA members can bring questions and concerns to their Regional Coordinators or their league’s Member Congress representative. JRDA also has reporting available to members for abuse and harassment through our Grievance Form here.
We also know that many of you may not be members of our organizations, yet are still an important and valued part of our community. Your feedback, ideas, questions, and concerns are necessary to help develop the sport we all want to see. Please reach out to us using the following contact information:
To our friends who have been made to feel marginalized, or unsure of your place in the sport of roller derby, you are absolutely valued and wanted. To those of you who are survivors, we believe you.
Let’s do better.