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So much going on, so much to make the brain spin.
This week was a doozy. Everywhere.
I am still not right from Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony from gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols. They were asked to come to Committee to discuss – once again – their abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar (Not calling him a doctor. He is a monster.) and the destructive enabling by USA Gymnastics (USAG), the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), the FBI, and in a strong supporting role, Michigan State University.
The suffering of these gymnasts and the other athletes Nassar harmed, from the gold medalists to children, still defies belief. I BELIEVE and STAND with the survivors 100 percent. What I fail to believe and comprehend are the people who KNEW this abuse was happening and said nothing. Did nothing. Dismissed the women. Asked them, “Is that it?”, to dismiss them after they poured their hearts out in relieving every single terrible detail out loud. The people I have personally heard that feel this wasn’t “really bad”, because “it wasn’t like they were raped”.
These acts of evil happened again and again, and the only thing that happened is Nassar remained utterly free to commit acts of evil.
My disgust is real. My anger is real. My connection to this is real. I am a professor at Michigan State, and I have had students in my classroom who suffered directly from Nassar’s abuse. They bravely testified at trial, and then came to class. I saw the absolute tsunami of emotional overload in their eyes – fear, relief, anxiety, shame, and anger. They had their lives cleaved in half by him: who they were before the assaults, and now who they will be in the after.
I also write for the USOPC, with a decent amount of gymnastics. I have been around all these girls and women for a while. And yes, I was around Nassar and his equally-evil wingman coach John Geddert. I started my sports writing career at the Lansing State Journal, Michigan’s capital city where Geddert started his Twistars gym. He was the coach of 2012 gold medalist Jordyn Wieber. I worked with her mom at the paper.
So yes, I feel personally attached. I many times have wondered if there was something I missed at Twistars, something I should asked the worn-out gymnasts I was interviewing, or other questions I should have thought of to help reveal this. I didn’t know. But I don’t feel excused.
Geddert had a cruel and evil vibe to me. His dark eyes pierced through you, even when he was seemingly being nice during our interviews. I have met many a cruel coach, too many that I would believe they could abuse somebody mentally, physically or emotionally. They get celebrated for being intense, no-nonsense, they get put into Halls of Fame.
Nassar was just weird, almost into a zone where he seemed not dialed in. Too smiley, too over the top nice. But I had less to do with him than Geddert. I now see where Geddert’s cruelty, along with the other national-level coaches that pushed their gymnasts into Nassar’s clutches, made the “nice guy” with the candy be the better alternative – until he wasn’t.
I hated seeing these women again unmasking their pain for Congressional entertainment. They bared their worst moments for a bunch of politicians who ended up talking about themselves twice as much as the women testified. I know they came to shake up the system for progress. Nothing yet of lasting value has happened. FBI still a mess. Michigan State is not releasing its investigation documents to the survivors, saying there is nothing to see while guarding its tattered legal backside. USAG and USOPC eternally spin their wheels in the swamp bureaucracy. Safe Sport, the agency tasked with stopping abuse, is as effective as a Dr. Seuss book of riddles.
We should not need survivors to tell their stories over and over and over and over, almost as a dark performative theatre, before any matters are solved. We know what happened. Nothing they said was new, just another retelling of nightmares for the record.
I wish these women peace and pray for healing. But all of us can demand justice for them, and realize real justice is likely not being served for sexual abuse victims and survivors in our communities.
I never want to hear the phrase, “But did you say something?”, ever again.
These gymnasts have been screaming their truth since 2015.
When will somebody listen?
Open Court has several projects going in the Magic Shop:
-- Monday will be the long-awaited epic of why you need to know and appreciate the superstar Korean band BTS. And before you ask…who?...just know they will be rolling into the United Nations General Assembly on Monday as the special envoys of Korea’s president. And they have diplomatic passports. And they are making piles of money. And they rap, sing and dance better than you. And they will make you laugh. They are everywhere. So time to acknowledge. Your answer to “Do you know BTS?” will be real after Monday’s OC.
-- There will be a series about ACLs, the lovable ligament that decides to snap and make your knee turn to spaghetti. Athletes dread the words ACL tear and reconstruction hell that follows. The good news is, the prevention and recovery processes are advancing. Bad news: the injury is now happening a lot to little kids because our society’s quest to produce pro athletes at all costs out of youth sports.
So have a good weekend. Unpack and unwind a little. I know I will need to put down this week and smile.
See you Monday.