Last week, in a Michigan courtroom, justice came down hard on Dr. Larry Nassar, a man who worked for Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and with Twistars Gymnastic School as well as at the Karoli Training Camp in Texas, run by Bela and Marta Karoli.
If you’ve been living under a basket, you may not know the details of the scandal enveloping MSU, USA Gymnastics Twistars and the Karoli Ranch, where many of the girls trained – but, you should.
It’s a stunning and terrible story involving a massive cover-up of wrongdoing on many levels, with the victims being young girls.
The judge hearing the case had lengthy and pointed remarks as she sentenced Nassar – summed up with the words, “I just signed your death warrant” – 175 years in prison for multiple counts of sexual assault. Thank you, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.
The charges against Dr. Larry Nassar in that court – not including the 60 years for federal pornography convictions – are based on the accusations of nearly 200 little girls and young women on gymnastic teams over some 20 years. The girls were abused by him under the guise of medical treatment.
He was a sports medicine doctor for the gymnastics training program and also traveled with the USA teams to Olympic venues.
He had his own “methods” of treating back problems, which involved sexually specific manipulations that never were publically addressed.
When I first read of the investigation into the sexual abuse of female gymnasts I was disgusted. It affected me on many levels, not the least of which was the fact of adults taking sexual advantage of little children. That’s a horror beyond all.
Add to that, the fact that the home base of the abuser, Dr. Larry Nassar, is Michigan State University, the institution where I earned my graduate degree and which, until now, I held in high esteem. The reality of what was done, and not done, by the school, staff, faculty and administrators over 20 years leads me to believe they need to clean house.
In addition, my children were in gymnastics in California over many years. They’d seen TV coverage of the Olympics and fell in love with the sport. They participated for many years and worked very, very hard to succeed as they did. Fortunately, they did not endure what so many others did.
The abused girls were young and easily threatened. Often, parents didn’t believe them if they complained, and the adults in the training program kept their mouths shut. They knew what was at stake – jobs, acclaim, money and more prestige – for themselves and for the institution. It’s nothing to sneeze at. USA Gymnastics is a $34.4 million a year enterprise. Its top executive gets paid $625,000 a year.
When you add to that the money involved in fundraising by the University as well as the money brought in by sponsors of the competitions, you are talking big bucks and reasons for a cover-up.
An almost immediate result of Nassar’s conviction was that five sponsors of gymnastic competitions withdrew their support – AT&T, Proctor and Gamble, Hershey’s, Under Armour and Kellogg’s. That’s probably just the beginning. The entire USA Gymnastics Board resigned.
And there’s more. The president of MSU submitted her resignation after initially defending the MSU program. The board of trustees wanted her out, as did the state legislature.
When I saw that, I realized why over the last couple of months, I got (as did other alums) nice e-mail letters from President Lou Ana Simon, explaining how things really aren’t that bad but thousands of dollars will be spent for counseling and reimbursement for the victims and their families.
But things were even worse. She is gone and, two days later, so was athletics Director Mark Hollis, who “retired.”
An interesting side is that the chair of MSU’s Athletic Council resigned. Sue Carter, a journalism professor who is also an ordained Episcopal priest, said she disagrees with the university’s “ineffective response.” She said she spoke to President Simon, who insisted media accounts were inaccurate and that all the facts were not known.
Carter said the University and Simon have not acknowledged the pain and suffering of the athletes who sought treatment from Nassar.
Well, they have now, but it’s too late.
There will be other investigations. The NCAA is getting involved, as is the state legislature. There’s even a bill in Washington dealing with requiring the reporting of such instances of abuse.
Clearly, the problem at MSU is not just with the gymnastics program. One of the girls said the girls on the soccer team often referred to Nassar as “the crotch doc.”
There are also investigations now into claims of abuse on the men’s basketball and football teams. So gymnastics may just be the beginning of a greater scandal.
But the best part of all this is Judge Aquilina. She’s no pushover; she pulls no punches, and that’s why some call her “the barracuda”!
I’ll say it right here: I love “the barracuda,” and as far as I’m concerned, I’d like to see her on the Supreme Court. (President Trump, are you listening?) She’s smart, tough and patriotic – just what we need.
If you want new confidence in the judicial system and the abilities of a judge to do the right thing, read the remarks of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina as she sentenced Larry Nassar.
I saw it on the Daily Mail Online, and it’s a stunner. Read to the end.
I will write more about Judge Aquilina, but she said she “believes in individualized sentencing.”
Aquilina continued: “I follow the Constitution, and I believe our system works. I also believe these survivors.”
And Nassar faces 175 years in prison, as the judge said when she signed “his death warrant.”
Media wishing to interview Barbara Simpson, please contact [email protected].