Today is day three of an originally planned four day sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar. The sentencing hearing is being extended into next week because thus far 105 women have requested to give statements that he molested them while he was supposed to be treating them as a doctor for USA Gymnastics, Michigan State's athletic department, or in his private practice. He was previously convicted on federal charges of child pornography, including making some of him molesting his victims. He has been sentenced to 60 years for those crimes. He pled guilty in the state of Michigan on criminal sexual conduct charges and faces between 40 and 105 years of prison. He is also facing charges in Texas for alleged abuse at the Karolyi ranch, where Olympic gymnasts and Olympic hopefuls go to train. Prominent victims include McKayla Maroney (gold medalist team, silver in vault, meme generator extraordinaire), Gabby Douglas (two time team gold medalist, individual gold in 2012), Aly Raisman (two time USA team captain at the Olympics, double team gold, individual bronze 2012 and silver 2016), and Simone Biles (individual gold in 2016, generally recognized as the best all-time among women).
The uncovering of his crimes dates back to an Indianapolis Star report in 2016
. That got the ball rolling. At last count more than 150 women have come forward alleging he abused them.
There's a deeper issue here, which the Star
got into with how USAG covers up systematic abuse of their athletes. A number of coaches and doctors were accused of sexual abuse and USAG failed to respond. This is especially troubling with women's gymnastics' emphasis on training from a very young age so many of the victims were too young to stand up for themselves and needed adults to supervise and step in. They did not.
Late breaking news as I wrote this though, USAG is finally cutting ties with the Karolyi Ranch
where significant portions of Nassar's abuse of US Olympians/hopefuls took place. So Simone Biles (and in theory Raisman or Douglas, though at their mid 20s they will be ancient by women's gymnastics standards) will not have to return to the scene of the assaults to train for Tokyo 2020.
The other major institution to fail utterly was Michigan State University. As this was the Michigan portion of the trial, a lot of the victim statements we've been hearing over the last three days are from MSU students, especially MSU athletes. They were nearly universal in placing their blame on MSU, even those who graduated or played for the school. The most powerful was perhaps (there have been lots of powerful statements) former MSU gymnastics captain Lindsey Lemke (and still a student, injury ended her career)
. Today the State News, MSU's student newspaper, called for the University President to resign
. Said President, Lou Anna Simon, has been atrocious during this scandal. Her worst moment, I think, was this one:
“virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile."
So they didn't try. The Detroit News had a report this morning that indicates 14 different MSU employees
were informed of Nassar's behavior over the course of 20 years, and nothing was ever done. The behavior of the former gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages, feels to me like it rises to criminal. Consistently covered up for her good friend Kathy, told her athletes they were wrong about what he was doing to them, and asked her team (including a number of victims, like Lemke) to sign a card in support of him when the story finally came out.
Four prominent Michigan lawmakers, including the Speaker of the House, and both the State Rep and Senate Senator representing East Lansing have also called on Simon to resign. Thus far the elected Board of Trustees has issued her votes of confidence. They gave her a $150,000 raise three weeks ago, though she was at least smart enough PR wise to turn it down and make it a scholarship. They even issued a vote of confidence for her today. They did set aside $10 million for a fund to pay victims, but given the number of victims (150+) and the lawsuits that will not be sufficient. Inevitably taxpayers will foot the bill. Two members have their eight year terms expire this year and are up for re-election in November. They are Brian Breslin (son of Jack Breslin, for whom the basketball arena on campus is named) and Mitch Lyons (EDIT: I forgot, he's the Trustee who OUTED A WHISTLEBLOWER IN A DIFFERENT SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE). So if you're in Michigan vote against those jackasses.
MSU needs to clean house, and the only ones demonstrating leadership on campus are the victims and the student newspaper. That's embarrassing.
This is probably the worst sports scandal in American history and certainly in recent American history. It dwarfs
the Sandusky scandal, which a number of people thought should have caused Penn State to be shut down in its entirety.
Herbert Hoover got 40% of the vote in 1932. Friendly reminder.