Former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was accused of sexually assaulting upwards of 250 young women, has been convicted on multiple counts of sexual assault and will spend the rest of his life behind bars. The implications of the case, however, extend far past Nassar and the detestable acts of which he is accused. The extent to which the university failed to protect its athletes and take complaints seriously is just now being uncovered, and the testimonies put forth are painting many administrators in an increasingly incriminatory light.
While some argue over the integrity of the #MeToo movement in instances such as the Aziz Ansari fiasco, Nassar’s uncovering due to his victims, dubbed “the survivors,” speaking out is a clear-cut case in which the movement needed. The #MeToo movement provided victims with a newfound confidence to tell their stories and hold Nassar accountable for his actions. Perhaps the most troubling part of this debacle is the fact that this is not the first time many of the victims attempted to speak up.
There is evidence to suggest that grievances regarding Nassar’s invasive “treatments” arose from athletes as early as 1997, twenty years before the acts came to light. However, many of the complaints were dismissed by trainers and coaches who declared that Nassar, a well-respected doctor, was only using unorthodox yet still, in their eyes, effective methods to treat his patients. The investigations into Nassar that did arise went nowhere, and charges against Nassar never materialized due to the denial or perhaps straight ignorance of many school officials.
For Michigan State, the harshest ramifications are still to come. The obvious pattern of widespread neglect and denial evident among school employees, ranging from athletic trainers to high-level administrators, is clearly reminiscent of the Penn State scandal involving Jerry Sandusky. The penalties and sanctions imposed on both the university and its athletic programs will most likely mirror those in Happy Valley and criminal charges are still not out of the question for many of those involved. Recent resignations by Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, MSU gymnastics head coach Kathie Klages and US women’s gymnastics team coordinator Valeri Liukin suggest that even those at the top of the chain of command have knowledge of the allegations against Nassar. These individuals’ knowledge raises a question of how campuses handle sexual assault.
While not linked directly to the Nassar case, head Spartans football coach Mark Dantonio and head basketball coach Tom Izzo have come under fire for their alleged roles in mismanaged accusations against their players. However, both coaches adamantly deny the allegations and both have come out in support of the victims of the Nassar case.
As further investigations have continued to look into the scandal, hundreds of students have taken part in the symbolic action. These actions have included things such as marching towards the school’s administration building and joining the many members of the Michigan State community who have been extremely vocal in expressing their discontent with how their school handled the situation. The failure on multiple levels to report and take seriously allegations against Nassar allowed the sexual abuse of athletes to go on for decades too long. Those who knew did nothing. But, after years of inaction by the University, trainers, coaches, and administrators, the victims stood up and took it upon themselves to seek the justice which they were due.
While Nassar is now behind bars, the ordeal is far from over. As the cover-up is unearthed, more accusations will emerge, more investigations will progress, more charges will manifest, and the scandal will take its place among the most infamous in collegiate sports history.