The biggest and most grotesque sex abuse case to have ravaged USA gymnastics (and US sports) came to a close in the courtroom with disgraced USA Gymnastics coach Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years after being found guilty of ten counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct. Over 100 women came forward with victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing in the courtroom of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.
This GIF of Judge Aquilina throwing away the letter Larry Nassar wrote the court about how hard it is for him to listen to victim testimonies PRETTY MUCH SAYS IT ALL. pic.twitter.com/5HB9WMaPqU
— Ellie Hall (@ellievhall) January 24, 2018
Their words were harrowing and important. They addressed Nassar and explained what his violent actions had done to them and what toll it took on their lives and careers. One can only sit in awe of the incredibly brave survivors who came forward to share their stories and confront the man who committed these heinous crimes.
As a result of the trial and revelations of Michigan State University’s inaction, USOC’s willful ignorance and USA Gymnastics stellar track record of doing absolutely nothing, despite being tipped off that Nassar was a serial abuser, there have been resignations from MSU (Athletic Director and University President respectively) and the entire board of directors of USA Gymnastics was forced to quit. The Attorney General has announced a probe into the mishandling of this case by MSU officials. There should be much more hell to pay. These people are complicit in the crimes against so many young women.
We watched in horror as the details emerged in the courtroom, much of sports media was not there to report. Lindsay Gibbs of ThinkProgress wrote: “Cable news hardly gave the Larry Nassar sentencing hearing a second thought. MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN spent less than 20 minutes combined last week covering Nassar’s abuse.” Because reporting on 45’s latest assholery is more important?
It breaks my fucking heart that sports media, by and large, has decided the Larry Nassar case isn't worth their time or attention.
(#notallsportsmedia, of course, don't @ me)
— Jessica Luther (@jessicawluther) January 16, 2018
The Oscar nominations are out already and we see a few athletes in the mix. Kobe Bryant (accused rapist and former LA Lakers player) was nominated for an Oscar for his animated film “Dear Basketball” based on a poem he wrote for The Player’s Tribune in 2015. When Bryant retired to much hoopla, I wasn’t sure I could stomach seeing him constantly revered. I was right. This next set of accolades are just as disgusting to me. First and foremost, there is the erasure of his involvement in a rape case that highlighted how sports media gives athletes a pass. Bryant sits courtside at WNBA games, and presents himself as an ally of women. At a pivotal time when #MeToo is so widespread and is forcing necessary conversations, is it wise to recognize Bryant for artistic achievements? Some of us remember all to well the brutal details of his own charges. Long story short, I’m not going to watch his film. I have no intention on puking out popcorn in disgust.
The biopic of former USA skater Tonya Harding, “I, Tonya” was also nominated for an Academy Award. Now J.E. Vader, one of the reporters who initially covered this story for Sports Illustrated in 2004, says that the film is inaccurate and portrays Harding in a sympathetic light. She and her partner Jeff Gillooly conspired with the now deceased bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt to injure fellow Team USA skater and Olympic Gold favourite Nancy Kerrigan. Something that Gillooly told the FBI but is omitted from the film. There are other important pieces that were left out of the movie. Vader writes: “Harding has changed her story over and over in the past 24 years, but it’s always that she is a victim and everyone else is horrible. She is habitually “truth-challenged” — this fantasy film is Harding’s dream come true.”
Truth be told, I might watch that film though.
Let’s finish off this month’s column with some kick ass women’s hockey before we head to the Olympics. In this weekend’s NHL All-Star game, USA women’s hockey team player Hilary Knight slayed in the skills test. You can often find Knight on Twitter as she slashes as misogynists and refuses to allow folks to get away with sexist commentary. We see sports commentators try to reduce the contributions of women in sports – particularly in sports like hockey. But we shall not allow this to pass. We have no time for sexism. Too busy cheering on the amazing players on the ice.
— Mark Harris (@TweetsByHarris) January 28, 2018
As a small reminder of who often leads the way to Olympic glory, I leave you with this excellent cartoon by Gary Clement from the 2006 Olympics. The comic was created after the women’s team won their second Gold in Turin, where the men’s team finished out of the medal round.