What follows is my email, with screenshots, to Bruce Wells, Area 6 Director, and the other 7 Area Directors, sent three years ago, on June 4th, 2018. This was following the series of events that’s come to be known as “Ban The Bens.”
Briefly stated, what unfolded was that I made an Instagram post tagging Mike Foley, he responded and eventually escalated to him emailing saying the only way to “un-fuck myself” and not be banned from USPSA for life was to take down the post, which I did. However, in disbelief, I sent the screenshots to Ben Stoeger, who began posting them publicly, which led to Foley threatening him with a lifetime ban as well. At the time, Stoeger was the reigning and 6-time Production National Champion.
As a result of this petition and general uproar, the board did not sanction Foley in any way, except to state he would be required to take some social media training. He was re-elected in 2019, and will serve another 4-year term from 2020-2024.
Jun 4, 2018, 10:56 PM
To: Bruce Wells, Area 6 Director & all other area directors
My name is Ben Berry. I’ve been a USPSA member since 2013 and am currently a Production Grandmaster in the sport. I say this only to posit that I have spent a good deal of my time in the sport and am quite invested in it.
You’ve probably heard my name quite a lot in the last few days. So far, I have remained silent on this topic because I wanted to let the facts speak for themselves, and take time to reflect on what had happened. I write you today with two aims. First, to clarify any factual errors that have been made about the sequence of events, insofar as I was involved with them. Second, to express my opinion as a dues-paying member of the organization about how I think the organization should proceed and why.
Part 1: Facts
You have likely seen the screenshots posted by Ben Stoeger. These are all my screenshots, provided to him with the express goal of allowing them to be seen by the membership, so that they might be aware of the conduct of their President. My goal was that the members could then come to their own conclusion, having all the facts. The screenshots are relatively complete.
You may notice that they do not contain any correspondence from me to Mike Foley, with the one exception of a comment reply on Instagram very early in the sequence of events. This is not an omission. After that single comment, I did not reply or interact with Mr. Foley in any way, only reading in disbelief his increasingly abusive and, eventually, threatening correspondence as it came in.
The timeline is as follows. All times are Eastern Time. I understand Mr. Foley at the time was six hours ahead in France. I have attached a PDF with an expanded version of this timeline that includes all the screenshots I took at the time, for your reference. [I’ve included these screenshots inline for the purposes of this post. -BB]
Saturday, 2 June
9:25pm: I make the original post on Instagram. The post is a few clips from a match cut together to show me engaging arrays of more than 10 rounds and commenting about how much I am enjoying shooting Production IPSC-style.
9:53pm: I post a new thread on Doodie entitled “Production 15 is dope”. The sole content is a link to my Instagram post.
Sunday, 3 June
1:07am: Foley posts his comment on Instagram calling me a “dishonest idiot”
1:13am: I receive an email from Foley that starts with “stop telling lies on instagram about me and IPSC”
1:16am: Not having seen his email, I respond on Instagram calling him “humorless”. This is the last message of any kind that I send.
1:18am: Having found my Doodie thread, he replies there too. The contents of his post are two words: “Lie much?”
1:19am: Foley posts a comment on Instagram: “I’ve got a strategy for you asshole.”
1:20am: Foley posts a second comment on Instagram: “Combative enough for you?”
2:10am: Foley sends the email beginning with “Here’s how I suggest you un-fuck yourself, keep from being suspened, and get to shoot a match at any level in the future:”
2:15am: He has already deleted the “asshole” and “Combative” comments. Commenter on instagram asks “What happened to the other comments?”
~2:30am: I edit my Instagram post to remove the offending sentence.
2:40am: At some previous point, Foley has edited his Doodie post to “I see what you did there.”
2:44am: Having noticed that I’ve edited my post, Foley sends an email saying “I apologize for blowing a gasket.”
Part 2: Opinions
When I made my original post, I was attempting to make a joke, which I understand doesn’t always come across as intended on the internet. In this case, I said something perceived as damaging to Mr. Foley, which was not my intent. This could have been solved easily with a reasonable request to remove the comment. However, that’s not what happened.
During this exchange, I was repeatedly insulted (“dishonest idiot”, “lie much?”, “asshole”), and then provoked (“enough for you?”). Following that, after a gap of 50 minutes, I was belligerently (“un-fuck yourself”) threatened with a lifetime ban (“get to shoot a match at any level in the future”).
The more time passed, the greater the level of abuse and threats got. Eventually I complied.
Mr. Foley has characterized this interaction saying that “two grown men had an exchange that was resolved in minutes.” It was not an “exchange.” No more than a robber pointing a knife at someone, demanding their wallet, and upon receiving it, agreeing not to stab them is an “exchange.” Abuse and–eventually–threats were applied until compliance was gained. This was not a discussion.
The day following the events described above, Mr. Foley continued to make other insulting statements about me and others on the Doodie Project forums. While those are egregious, they are secondary to my main thesis. What brings me to write you today is the series of events I have just described. The other events that transpired and posts that were made by Mr. Foley since the end of my timeline above are concerning, but not my primary cause of action.
Part 3: Assertions
Assertion 1: During the events described above, Mr. Foley entirely bypassed reasonable dialogue and went straight to threatening a lifetime ban from the sport over a single sentence on Instagram. The fact that he would use disproportionate, intimidating force to accomplish a simple goal is entirely inappropriate.
It forces me to question how he negotiates with Nationals Match Directors, other IPSC RDs, and organization sponsors. If he treats them anything like he treated me, he is wholly unsuited to represent us, and will likely drive a wedge between himself and anyone he is trying to negotiate with. (Is this why he has publicly stated that outsourced Nationals are a thing of the past? His inability to reach reasonable compromise with others?)
Assertion 2: The fact that Mr. Foley felt that his attempts at rapprochement with IPSC personnel were profoundly threatened by a single internet post indicates he has very little confidence in his ability to ameliorate any concerns it might have brought up. If he is unable to deal appropriately with a minor incident like this, how will he handle something larger?
Assertion 3: Ignoring their gendered and homophobic connotations, Mr. Foley using terms like “fag” and “bitch” to refer to members conveys a profound sense of contempt. He is free to think whatever he likes, but as the leader of the organization, expressing that level of contempt is unprofessional and undermines his credibility as someone who represents the whole membership.
Assertion 4: Including those gendered and homophobic connotations, Mr. Foley has sent a loud and clear message that he represents the straight, male membership. Others need not apply. This is not acceptable for the leader of a membership-driven, not-for-profit, volunteer sport.
Assertion 5: This situation is only 48 hours old, and the jokes are already ubiquitous within USPSA circles that criticizing Mr. Foley might result in a ban. Yes, these are jokes, but every time they are retold, they reinforce the idea that USPSA is led by someone who would wield draconian power over jokes on the internet.
Assertion 6: As word of this event has spread outside USPSA circles, it has regularly brought comments of the type “this is why I stick to 3gun” or “this is why I only shoot outlaw matches.” Damaging the reputation of the sport and making a permanent impression that we are led by a petty tyrant is the literal definition of bringing the sport into disrepute. [“Bringing the sport into disrepute” was quoting the wording of the rulebook that justifies a match DQ. USPSA Bylaw 7.7 states “An officer or Director may be removed from office for: … acts deemed detrimental or injurious to the USPSA organization” That’s what I meant to quote.]
Taking these assertions into account, I believe that Mike Foley is incapable of effectively leading the organization of USPSA. He is a poor negotiator, using coercive force when not required, he has no confidence in his own ability to resolve small diplomatic hurdles, he has shown unprofessional contempt for the membership, he has shown his contempt for women and homosexuals, he has lost the respect of the membership, and is tarnishing our reputation with non-members.
If Mike Foley does not resign or is not removed from office, he will serve out the rest of his term with these blemishes on his reputation. In that case, I hope he does not do irreparable damage to relations with match directors or other RDs with his negotiating style before he leaves office.
Simply put, Mike Foley does not represent the membership of USPSA and can not be allowed to continue in his role. I wish him the best personally and hope to one day get to shoot a match with him. But in his official capacity as the leader of our organization, he has done enough. He must go.
Bruce, I ask that you personally submit a motion for removal of the President under section 7.7 of the USPSA Bylaws. If that motion carries, the rest of his term will be served out by the capable Sherwyn Greenfield, our current VP. I sincerely believe that is the outcome that will do the least long term damage to our sport and allow us to move on and put this behind us.