Steven Ungerleider, the author, sports psychologist and co-founder of Sidewinder Films, the label behind documentaries about the USA Gymnastics scandal, the 1972 Munich Olympics and Arthur Ashe, has died. He was 73.
Ungerleider died Saturday in Healdsburg, California, after an eight-month battle with pancreatic cancer, The Foundation for Global Sports Development announced. He founded the organization in 1996 to promote “accessible, fair and abuse-free sport for youth through grants, awards and educational projects.”
Ungerleider produced HBO’s At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (2019), the Erin Lee Carr-directed film that focused on the sexual-abuse victims of convicted USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
“Steven always fought for what was right, no matter what, especially advocating for those who had been wronged and silenced by institutional failures,” Foundation for Global Sports Development executive board member David Ulich said in a statement.
Ungerleider was nominated for an Emmy for his research on 2016’s Munich ’72 and Beyond, a 44-minute PBS documentary about the families of the 11 Israelis murdered at the 1972 Summer Olympics. It was the first project to come out of Sidewinder Films, launched in 2015.
He produced and directed the 2020 PBS doc short Positive All the Way, an inspiring story about the Paralympic movement and its founder, Philip Craven, and produced the 2021 CNN Films doc Citizen Ashe, about the tennis legend and activist.
He was an executive producer on the Oscar-nominated 2018 Netflix documentary short End Game, about terminally ill patients in San Francisco in the last days of their lives.
The Atlantic City-born Ungerleider also produced the 2021 PBS documentary Waterman, about five-time Olympic medalist and native Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku.
He wrote several books on Olympic topics, including 2001’s Faust’s Gold: Inside the East German Doping Machine. It was adapted for a 2008 episode of the PBS series Secrets of the Dead.
Ungerleider served on the Education and Ethics Committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency and the National Advisory Panel of the American Psychological Association. In 2009, he co-founded the Texas Program in Sports and Media at his alma mater, the University of Texas, Austin.
He more recently helped launch the Courage First Athlete Helpline to build awareness around sexual abuse in sport and offer confidential support.
Survivors include his partner, Joanna; daughters Shoshana and Ariel and their husbands, Ed and Tim; and grandchildren Mackenzie and Jacob.
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