Controversial “GirlsGrappling” Pages Taken Down Amidst Accusations Of Filming Female Grapplers Without Consent

Photo Source: GirlsGrappling/ YouTube

The website and Facebook page for GirlsGrappling have been taken down in the wake of accusations that the person managing the page was both filming female grapplers without their consent and posting the videos to a YouTube page (also without their consent). The YouTube page remains active as of press time.

The issue came to light after NAGA Philadelphia a couple weekends ago, when one jiu-jitsu practitioner noticed that someone was filming his girlfriend’s match. He recounted the incident in a Reddit post:

“Hey guys I don’t know much about law so hopefully you guys can tell me if this is within law or whatever. I’ve been watching these two guys who run ” girlsgrappling.com” record female matches at all the local tournaments in my area. They have recorded matches of my girlfriend, her friends, and friends of mine I’ve made through cross training. It looks innocent at first but the more you look at their website and YouTube channel you can tell it is for sure weird as **** and definitely violating and invasive to privacy. This Saturday at NAGA in Pennsylvania I asked one of them to stop recording my girlfriend and he ignored me, so I stood up in front of him to block his camera and continued coaching my girlfriend. He says to me “if you touch me I’ll sue you”. We told Kipp from naga and they were removed afterwards. So my question is Can legal action be taken against these goons who record women and pretty much exploit them for personal gain?”

The post soon gained traction on Facebook, and multiple women began sharing their own personal stories of their encounters with the website and the man who’s said to run it, Keith Egan. After I put out an open request on behalf of the Jiu-Jitsu Times for any information that could confirm or negate the allegations that women were having videos filmed and uploaded to GirlsGrappling.com without their permission, I received numerous responses from people who reported that their videos were being shared to the site or that they’d been filmed without their permission. One woman recounted that she had specifically requested that her videos be taken down — although her request was briefly fulfilled, the video soon reappeared on the page.

Upon first glance, it all seemed pretty innocent: the website was, as advertised, a source for female grappling videos. None of them look like they’d belong on even a softcore pornographic site, the women in the videos are all clothed, and the site promotes itself as a way to support and promote female grapplers. But small oddities added up to cause the site to seem fishy, according to many people who have seen it. For example, the women in the videos are rarely named. Many of the thumbnails for the videos on the site also emphasize the athletes’ buttocks or cleavage.

The concerns aren’t unfounded — there’s a sizeable population of people who have fetishes for grappling/wrestling with or being physically dominated by women in a fight. Many female BJJ practitioners (including me) have received sexually-based messages from strangers asking to grapple, and “mixed wrestling” is a popular category on many pornographic websites — and yes, the participants are frequently fully clothed. Some women have even reported having their jiu-jitsu matches show up on explicitly pornographic websites.

Before it was taken down, the GirlsGrappling website also claimed to donate ad money from the videos to charity, but there was no mention of where the money actually went:

“Adsense proceeds from this channel will be donated to a gofundme.com to help women in need. Please see all endorsed fundraisers at nogibear.com. If you have a cause that is in need of funding please let us help.”

Since NoGiBear.com appeared to have been taken down, I reached out to the NogiBear Facebook page to ask about their affiliation with GirlsGrappling.com. I was referred to this post as an official statement:

Apparently, I need to post this again. My apologies to anyone being creeped out… as you should. Please ask the…

Posted by Seema Shull on Monday, February 5, 2018

Shull claimed that she initially started Nogi Bear with Egan before disbanding in 2015 over management issues. However, because Egan owns the trademark, he’s continued to use the name in affiliation with the website. She claims that she and Egan retain 50/50 ownership of Nogi Bear. The pair (who were at one point romantically connected as well) also ran the Amateur Grappling League (AGL) and Professional Grappling League (PGL) tournaments in the past.

The responses from women who had been filmed without their consent were consistent in nature. One competitor who’s been involved in the east coast grappling scene for years said that she’d been filmed “several times” without her permission.

“I actually got a lot of exposure from PGL because I had some major upsets early in my career of semi known people. It seemed very legit while those organizations were active… While it ran, [Egan] would show up at NAGA and film matches under the guise of scouting talent. And indeed to be fair, he did get new women to compete at his tournaments by doing this. But after it all shut down he was still wandering around NAGA taping only women, and it became creepy… Last I saw him was last August at Battle at the Beach, and he had a NAGA staff shirt on. I almost went to complain to Kipp [Kollar, NAGA president], but then with him wearing an employee shirt we thought maybe he was taping random matches.”

Another woman who appeared on the site without her consent said, “I had NO IDEA that my content was being shared… It honestly really creeps me out that they’re sexualizing our sport and that they’d think its ok to film us/post things of us without permission.”

One of the competitors who was filmed at NAGA Philadelphia also seemed to think that the intentions of the site aren’t completely innocent, saying, “I first heard about [Egan] when a teammate of mine said, ‘Hey look, it’s the Nogi Bear guy once again creeping on girls.’ I had no idea who he was. I was mortified to learn that he records girls for his page that has no true reason for the uploads and shows only the most provocative ones as the main covers. I googled this ‘Girls Grappling’ page and saw so many of my own videos and soon felt powerless to the idea that this could be legal. What do I know about privacy laws? It was only this past event after four events of seeing him that I was fed up and grew the courage to stand up to this guy and say enough with this perverted act, only to be ignored and once again, my videos are up. The president of NAGA hushed him away from the girls’ section but lo and behold, videos are on YouTube, so it did no justice.”

A female grappler who was an active competitor at the AGL/PGL tournaments said, “He records matches all the time. Could’ve sworn he was wearing a NAGA staff shirt and he doesn’t even work for them.”

The man who made the initial Reddit post also responded to a request for comment, saying, “At previous tournaments I would tell [Egan] to stop recording my girlfriend and he would. But this weekend at NAGA I told him not to and he ignored me. So I stood up and blocked his camera and he says to me ‘don’t touch me or I’ll sue you.’ Then continued to record her anyway. He had a friend there… who was impersonating a NAGA staff member by wearing a NAGA staff shirt. He was recording girls too and looked exceptionally creepy. They have recorded underage girls too.”

The second man mentioned in the Redditor’s comment said that his involvement with GirlsGrappling didn’t extend beyond having edited a few of their videos. “They are a great collection of guys and gals,” he said.

One of the women who responded to my requests for comment reported that some time ago, she was contacted by an individual formerly associated with GirlsGrappling.com asking if she wanted to be a part of an instructional video, interview, and photo shoot involving “Grappler X”, who was a masked man described as being “a soulless, meaningless, 6’2″ 200 lb piece of meat whose only purpose is to be used by the Grappling Girls as fodder for their instructionals.” The message said that they were “looking for strong and sexy” and wanted the experience to be “tasteful” for the female participant.

An individual close to the situation (who agreed to provide information in exchange for anonymity) denied that there was anything sexual in nature about Grappler X or the video instructionals, contrary to the impression that the woman had gotten from the messages. They claimed that the mask and description attributed to Grappler X was to take the focus away from the man in the video and instead shift it to the woman demonstrating the techniques so that she could get her time in the spotlight.

The individual also claimed that although they felt that there was a “double-entendre” being given off by many of the GirlsGrappling videos (largely for the reasons that other people had mentioned, such as the suggestive thumbnails on the videos), they believed that Egan had good intentions and was genuinely trying to promote the female grappling scene. When asked why, then, Egan was filming women’s matches and posting their videos against their wishes, the individual said that they didn’t think it was unreasonable for someone to film matches at a sporting event in a public place.

Legally speaking, because the filming took place in a public area, nothing took place that was against the law. People generally don’t have the right to expect privacy (including being photographed or filmed) when they attend something like a jiu-jitsu tournament, though some events have participants sign waivers just to protect themselves further. However, because events like NAGA are privately owned, the people running the tournament have a right to remove people from the event, and in the case of this month’s NAGA Philadelphia, that’s allegedly what happened: the individuals filming matches without the participants’ consent were asked to leave. If you or someone you know is being filmed against consent, it’s recommended that you approach the event manager or security about the issue.

It’s currently unclear if the GirlsGrappling Facebook page was taken down voluntarily or removed by Facebook after being reported, but the website is gone and has been replaced with this:

At press time, Egan was unable to be reached for comment; the Jiu-Jitsu Times will share an update if this changes.

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