University of Kansas massage therapist accused of misconduct with female athletes

Shawn P. O'Brien in a booking photo.
Shawn P. O’Brien in a booking photo.
(Douglas County [Kan.] Sheriff’s Office )

A massage therapist who was charged last month with indecent behavior with a child has been accused of inappropriately touching female athletes at the University of Kansas, school officials said Tuesday.

Chancellor Doug Girard and athletic director Jeff Long said in a joint statement that investigators also found that an athletic trainer was aware of at least some of the alleged incidents involving Shawn P. O’Brien but failed to appropriately report the conduct. The allegations involved at least six female athletes.

O’Brien provided free massages on campus to the general student population beginning in 2011 and as recently as last fall, the university said.

He also distributed gift cards that may have led to off-campus massages at his office at Medissage-Kamehameha Massage in Lawrence, the statement said, adding that local law enforcement is trying to determine whether inappropriate conduct took place.


O’Brien, 48, was charged on Feb. 21 with one count of indecent liberties with a child connected to incidents that allegedly happened seven or eight years ago with one girl.

O’Brien’s contract with the university was subsequently nullified, and he hasn’t worked with student athletes since he was charged. He provided massage therapy for women’s basketball, tennis, softball and soccer teams.

His attorney, Philip R. Sedgwick, said Tuesday that his client is “innocent of these charges and that’s what will be found in court.” He added that “it is kind of a sad day in our country where someone makes an allegation and people assume that it’s true.”

Sedgwick said he was unaware of the latest update on the investigation posted Tuesday on the university’s website and that he had no comment on it.


University investigators interviewed nearly 40 student athletes and seven staff members to date. The school said it has filed the required reports under federal law with law enforcement regarding the alleged instances it found.

The university said in its statement that it will continue its investigation into the conduct of the therapist and determine if anyone else knew of inappropriate behavior that may have occurred.