Six Kansas women athletes report misconduct, unwarranted touching by massage therapist

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — University of Kansas officials said their investigation into a former massage therapist who worked with KU Athletics has found that at least six women athletes reported inappropriate conduct, which included “unwarranted touching during massages.”

Chancellor Douglas Girod and athletic director Jeff Long provided a joint statement on KU’s public affairs website Tuesday. The school has been investigating Shawn Paul O’Brien, 48, of Lawrence, since he was arrested in February. He’s charged in Douglas County District Court with one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child under 14.

O’Brien had been contracted by KU Athletics to provide massage services to Jayhawks women’s sports teams since 2015, according to university officials.

KU reported Tuesday that its investigators had interviewed almost 40 athletes and seven staff members. It also said that the school determined one of KU’s athletic trainers was aware of at least some reports of unwarranted and unwanted touching by the therapist but did not appropriately report the conduct, which is a requirement by the school.

“We will continue our investigation into the conduct of the therapist and determine who, if anyone else, knew of inappropriate behavior that may have occurred,” Long and Girod’s statement said.

KU also said that it learned that O’Brien provided free massages on campus to the general student body as part of KU Alumni’s “Finals Dinner” events between 2011 and 2019. As part of that, O’Brien gave out gift cards that “may have led to off-campus massages at his office,” KU’s statement said.

Local police, KU said, were working to determine whether inappropriate conduct took place there.

O’Brien is listed as operating Kamehameha Massage LLC, according to Kansas business records. He owned the business starting in 2009. It dissolved in February 2019 because O’Brien became the “sole proprietor,” according to state records.

Girod and Long first reported that they were investigating O’Brien and his involvement with KU athletes on March 5.


The Star’s Nicole Asbury contributed to this report.


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