Explain This to Me

Charles Pierce has an article at Sports Illustrated about the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar, the former team physician for USA gymnastics, to 40-175 years in prison. Pierce being Pierce:

Burn it all down. That is the calm and reasoned conclusion to which I have come as one horror story after another unspooled in the courtroom. Nobody employed in the upper echelons at USA Gymnastics, or at the United States Olympic Committee, or at Michigan State University should still have a job. If accessorial or conspiracy charges plausibly can be lodged against those people, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those people should come out of civil courts wearing barrels. Their descendants should be answering motions in the 22nd Century. In fact, I can argue convincingly that none of those three institutions should continue to exist in its current form. USA Gymnastics and the USOC should lose their non-profit status forthwith. Michigan State should lose its status within the NCAA for at least five years. American gymnastics is no longer a sport. It’s a conspiracy of pedophiles and their enablers. … No punishment is too harsh for the inhabitants of this universe of ghouls and gargoyles to which these brave young women were condemned.  Burn it all down. Salt the earth so it never rises again.

One might have assumed that, maybe, other people at USA Gymnastics simply didn’t realize what was going on. However, consider the testimony of Aly Raisman, who is the winner of three Olympic gold medals.

“A few days ago, U.S.A. Gymnastics put out a statement attributed to its president and C.E.O., Kerry Perry, saying she came to listen to the courageous women and said, “Their powerful voices leave an indelible imprint on me and will impact my decisions as president and C.E.O. every day,” Raisman continued. “This sounds great, Ms. Perry, but at this point talk is cheap. You left midway through the day and no one has heard from you or the board. Kerry, I have never met you, and I know you weren’t around for most of this. But you accepted the position of president and C.E.O. of U.S.A. Gymnastics, and I assume by now you are very well aware of the weighty responsibility you’ve taken on.

“Unfortunately, you’ve taken on an organization that I feel is rotting from the inside, and while this may not be what you thought you were getting into, you will be judged by how you deal with it. A word of advice: continuing to issue empty statements of empty promises, thinking that will pacify us, will no longer work. Yesterday, U.S.A. Gymnastics announced that it was terminating its lease at the ranch where so many of us were abused. I’m glad that it is no longer a national team training site, but U.S.A. Gymnastics neglected to mention that they had athletes training there the day they released the statement.”

She wasn’t finished.

“Why have I and the others here probably not heard anything from the leadership of the U.S.O.C.? Why has the U.S. Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn’t the U.S.O.C. here right now?,” Raisman asked. “Larry was the Olympic doctor and he molested me at the 2012 London Olympic Games. They say now they applaud those who have spoken out, but it’s easy to say that now. When the brave women started speaking out back then, more than a year after the U.S.O.C. says they knew about Nassar, they were dismissed.

“At the 2016 Olympic Games, the president of the U.S.O.C. said that the U.S.O.C. would not conduct an investigation. It even defended U.S.A. Gymnastics as one of the leaders in developing policies to protect athletes. That’s the response a courageous woman gets when she speaks out? And when others joined those athletes and began speaking out with more stories of abuse, were they acknowledged? No. It is like being abused all over again. I have represented the United States of America in two Olympics and have done so successfully. And both U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalize on and celebrate my success. But did they reach out when I came forward? No.”

I sincerely and honestly don’t understand this. I’m not the least bit curious about Larry Nassar; I want to know why it is people protect abusers like him? And notice it isn’t just men protecting him. Pierce also said that the Michigan State gymnastics coach  “tried to coerce her athletes into signing a card to support Nassar when the first charges began to come down. This is unfathomable to me. I believe it also would be unfathomable to Vlad the Impaler.”

All these officials enjoy the prestige and income of being associated with world-class athletes. You’d think they would care about the athletes. Surely it’s easier to dismiss and replace a team doctor than to replace Olympic gold medal contenders. Yet their first reaction is to protect the doctor and throw the athletes under the bus.

Why? That makes absolutely no sense. Even assuming everyone in USA Gymnastics and the USOC is a cold-hearted sociopath, why was it in their interest to protect the doctor and not the athletes?

Maybe they somehow hoped the whole thing would go away, but considering the lot of these people and probably their organizations will be spending a large part of the rest of their lives dealing with civil suits, again, you would think it would have been in their own best interest to cut ties with Nassar as soon as the first complaint was made.

I will say one thing for these young women — considering the abuse was going on while they were competing in the highest level world competitions, under huge spotlights, in a sport where a slipped foot on the beam or slight miscalculation on the bars could result in devastating injury — boy howdy, they must have nerves of steel.  But I do wonder about young women with just as much talent but less nerve, who might have washed out of the program because of Nassar.

And, of course, it’s not just gymnasts, and it’s not just young women. Institutions close ranks around their own. But particularly when the very commodity that is the entire purpose of the institution is being abused, why is the reaction always to protect the abuser? And how can we change that?