On Wednesday, January 24th, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University sports doctor, Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 – 175 years in prison for sexual abuse and molestation charges. Nassar, if you’re not already familiar, was found guilty of abusing over 160 women and girls in his tenure as team doctor for MSU and USA Gymnastics. The 54-year old doctor was already found guilty on child pornography charges and sentenced to 60 years on those charges alone.
In a week of emotional and damaging testimony from numerous former athletes including Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Marony, and Aly Raisman, Nassar could only hope that the court would have some mercy on him. The judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, had different plans for Nassar. “I just signed your death warrant” Aquilina stated. The Michigan judge continued by saying “It is my honor and privilege to sentence you. You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again.” Nassar apologized to his victims during sentencing but the real remorse is going to be felt as he spends the rest of his living days in a prison cell.
Many of the victims and their supporters cheered as Nassar’s sentence was handed down but some were not celebrating. “It’s not something you where you just instantly feel better”, Aly Raisman stated in an interview on the Today Show following Nassar’s sentencing. The notion that others aided or covered up Nassar’s actions is fueling the continued fight for the truth in this matter.
Coincidently, on Wednesday, Michigan State University’s president was forced to resign as Michigan’s House of Representatives approved a resolution calling for such action. President Lou Anna Smith vehimitly denies any knowledge of complaints against Nassar and any form of school-involved cover up. Nassar worked for MSU from 1997 – 2016 and was suspended once in 2014 for complaints of a similar nature.
While MSU is standing firm on it’s claims that the university was not aware of or involved in any of Nassar’s abuse cases, others involved in the case feel differently. Rachael Denhollander, who started this fire against Nassar, holds MSU responsible for “Creat[ing] a culture when a predator can behave unabated”. Denhollander also alleged that “Victims were silenced, intimidated, told they were receiving medical treatment, and at times sent back to be further abused.” The NCAA has stated that will open a full investigation into MSU’s original handling of these abuse claims.
What does all this mean for college sports? Like many of the industries seeing the effects of sexual abuse claims, most importantly schools should be seeking out ways to make sure they taking these claims seriously and not allowing predators to remain in positions where they affect the lives of others. Look at Penn State, and countless other programs where sports have fraternity of silence that has impacted the lives of many young people. The hope is that cases like this force schools to create a culture of holding people in power to a higher standard, and effectively regulating those who refuse to play by the rules.