San Jose Sharks sued over child sex abuse cover-up

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 20: SJ Sharkie carries a Sharks flag before the NHL game between the San Jose Sharks and the Arizona Coyotes on March 20, 2022 at SAP Center in San Jose, CA. (Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A recently filed lawsuit claims Sharks Sports & Entertainment covered up a Jr. Sharks coach's alleged grooming and sexual abuse of child hockey players.   

At the center of the allegations is Kevin Whitmer, a former San Jose Jr. Sharks hockey coach who the lawsuit accuses of inappropriately touching players under the guise of medical evaluations, asking for photos of kids' bodies and taking them to the locker room alone in April 2021 at the Sharks Ice skating rink -- the official training facility for the National Hockey League team.   

"The San Jose Sharks organization that enabled the abuse engaged in cover-up type behavior. They had information they withheld from parents of Sharks players that could have prevented this from happening," Mark Boskovich, the plaintiff's attorney, told San Jose Spotlight. "If these complaints had been taken seriously sooner this could have all been prevented."   

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, is being brought against Sharks Sports & Entertainment, LLC -- the parent company of the official team. Boskovich is representing the family of a 12-year-old player who alleges direct abuse by Whitmer. On Oct. 31, 2023 the child's family filed a report with the San Jose Police Department and the following month, Whitmer was arrested and charged with 30 felony counts of child sexual abuse and 25 counts of possession of child pornography.   

San Jose Sharks spokesperson Jim Sparaco declined to comment on the lawsuit.   

Jr. Sharks players' parents complained to the organization that Whitmer was a "creep," the lawsuit states. It goes on to say that Whitmer's decisions were guided by wanting power and control of his players, and that Whitmer engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior in front of players such as making out with his girlfriend.   

It adds that Jr. Sharks players often referred to Whitmer as a pedophile while parents noticed the coach exhibiting strange behavior, showering the children with free gifts and electronically messaging them without their parents' knowledge.   

The lawsuit also states that an employee in charge of the locker room was not only ignored by Sharks management when she raised concerns about Whitmer but that she was terminated shortly after doing so.   

"This program supervisor raised these concerns to management at least five to 10 times during the 2018-2023 period," the filing reads.   

The lawsuit seeks damages against the Sharks organization for emotional harm and apparent cover-up of the abuse. It also seeks punitive damages against Whitmer.