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Published on May 16, 2024
Former Tribal Liaison Accuses Chicago Blackhawks of Fraud, Breach of Contract, and Sexual HarassmentSource: Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a stark turn of events that underscores the volatility of professional sports team's relations with indigenous matters, the Chicago Blackhawks' own outreach to Native American communities has buckled under the weight of serious allegations. Nina Sanders, billed as a tribal liaison for the Blackhawks, has lobbed accusations of fraud, breach of contract, and sexual harassment against the storied hockey franchise, as well as its charity foundation and CEO Danny Wirtz. The lawsuit was filed late Tuesday, which came to light in a report by the Chicago Tribune.

Hired back in the tinderbox year of 2020—at a time when the Blackhawks were under the gun to rebrand amidst nation-wide scrutiny—Sanders claims her acceptance of the job was predicated on bold promises made by Wirtz. He supposedly vowed to carve out positions for Native Americans, secure land for the Sac and Fox Nation, and potentially swap out the team's logo. Yet, according to the lawsuit, these commitments floundered like a fish out of water, with not a single one making the leap into reality.

Troubling depths were further plumbed when Sanders revealed that after she reported being sexually harassed by a coworker—who had allegedly attempted to force her into his hotel room in 2021—the harassment did not cease through 2022. Adding fuel to the fire, Sanders contends that when she alerted her immediate boss of not only her own ordeal but also two instances where other female employees were groped by male colleagues, the higher-ups did nothing. According to a statement given to ABC7 Chicago, the Blackhawks organization allegedly terminated Sanders’ contract last summer.

While the Blackhawks seemingly skated past commenting directly on the allegations lobbed against them when reached out to, a spokesperson revealed to the Chicago Tribune that the organization had inked a new contract extension for Sanders in 2023, but she declined it. In the midst of these claims, the team asserted that an internal investigation into Sanders' sexual harassment allegations didn’t find enough evidence to corroborate her story. Whether this controversial case resolves in a settlement or spirals into a courtroom showdown, one thing is clear: the Blackhawks have found themselves on thin ice.