FAME AND CONTROVERSY
Sanders rode the meteoric wave of the 1990s – X Games, speed skating, stunts and a TV show called RollerJam that Sanders appeared on regularly.
He started the derby, “just a way to spend more time skating,” he says, and earned his own nickname, Quadzilla.
Quadzilla’s acrobatic moves, footwork and jaw-dropping stunts, like jumping 14 people, won fans over. Documentary makers and filmmakers have taken notice.
In the 2007 Disney musical Enchanted, during an epic number filmed in Central Park, Sanders and a group of guys dancing on wheels momentarily steal the show from stars Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey.
He appears in at least three documentaries (Derby baby, This is how we roll and The wheels will land).
A fixture in the derby world, Sanders has become a sought-after coach. Many come to the sport with an athletic but not skating-specific background, he says.
“They know how to go fast and hit people,” he says.
So he shared his knowledge, organized skills camps all over the world, developed his own line of skates and played for the US roller derby team in the first two men’s World Cups.
But as Sanders prepared to play in her third World Cup tournament, a member of a women’s team, emboldened by the #metoo movement, wrote a since-deleted blog post accusing Sanders of inappropriate conduct. It cost him everything, he says.
He quit the team and lost an ongoing contract with skate brand Chaya.
The incident in question happened 16 years ago in New Zealand, Sanders says. The woman said while the team was bathing in a hot tub after practice, Sanders grabbed her leg, near the thigh, three times, even after she told him to stop.
“That was the story,” he said. “So I literally lost my entire livelihood. I was completely left out.”
In a public apology at the time (he says he also personally apologized to the woman), Sanders said it was possible he touched the woman. But he said in 2018 that he was “sure he hadn’t continually groped or forced her.
“I know what verbal and non-verbal cues are, and I know what consent is and I would never knowingly touch anyone in a sexual way without consent,” he said.
The accusation has divided the derby community, Sanders says. The accuser, also a respected member, had many supporters. Some dismissed Sanders. Others, including several of his teammates (who put his number 23 on their legs for the high-profile World Cup game, drawing their own criticism), have defended him.
At press time, the woman who accused Sanders of misconduct had not responded to an interview request.
Not wanting to make matters worse for his friends or himself, Sanders says, he retired from the sport he had loved for so long.