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Grinding Gears: NCAA must support survivors

first_imgEric He | Daily TrojanThe most important story in sports this week did not happen on a football field or a basketball court … or on any playing surface. Instead, it happened in a courtroom in Lansing, Mich., where more than 150 girls and women spoke directly to Larry Nassar — a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who pleaded guilty to several sex crimes — during his sentencing hearing, which concluded Wednesday with Nassar sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.There are several storylines here, the most important of which is the very fact that this is happening, that these survivors — who include prominent American gymnasts such as three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman — feel empowered to speak up, to confront this monster who exploited and abused them and manipulated their trust for so many years, while institutions such as USA Gymnastics and Michigan State ignored repeated complaints. Make no mistake: This should be the headline on every sports website right now — not Tom Brady, not LaVar Ball.This story is as uplifting as it is horrifying and infuriating. For every brave woman who has stood before Nassar in court and described how much he ruined their lives and despite how he’ll spend the rest of his life rotting in jail, disrespect and insensitivity persist. Michigan State trustee Joel Ferguson said during a radio interview, “There’s so many more things going on at the university than just this Nassar thing.” For every supportive statement offered by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who allowed time for every single one of Nassar’s victims who wish to speak to come forward at the hearing, there’s the fact that Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon took until Wednesday to resign, despite the Detroit News reporting that 14 university representatives were made aware of Nassar’s abuse — and stood silent. Even then, she offered a tone deaf resignation letter, which she opened by literally inserting herself into the same sentence as Nassar’s victims and ended it by calling this tragedy politicized, that she would take the resulting blame. “As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger,” Simon wrote. “I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements.”No, clearly, you don’t understand. Why is it so hard to just apologize, admit fault, resign and leave it at that?And for every such half-hearted apology that these enablers issue, there is the ridiculous comment made by NCAA President Mark Emmert last week, when he claimed that he did not have enough details to voice an opinion on the matter. Yes, you heard that right. More than a hundred survivors have come forward to speak directly to Nassar about the trauma he induced in their lives, creating a story that has been in the news cycle for days on end — Nassar himself has literally pleaded guilty to the charges — and the head of the organization that is supposed to ensure the health, safety and well-being of its student-athletes claim he does not have enough details to voice an opinion on the matter. But do the smallest thing to attack the “amateurism” of student-athletes, and come hell or high water, you bet Emmert will strongly condemn it. Amazing, yet pathetic — as the NCAA typically is.The NCAA can do better, and it has a chance to atone for the nonsense that came out of Emmert’s mouth. On Tuesday night, it announced an investigation into Michigan State’s handling of the Nassar case. Nassar worked at Michigan State from 1997 to 2016, during which he was accused of sexual abuse by cross country and softball players that he treated. The NCAA will investigate the school for any potential rule violations, and hopefully it will get to the bottom of whatever cover-up may have happened and how high it went — and punish the university accordingly.And yet, to put your trust in the NCAA is like trusting a 2-year-old to have proper morals. This the same organization that went light on Penn State after assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky molested young boys, backing off on what had originally been decently tough sanctions. This is the same organization that has yet to punish Baylor University, where football player after football player was accused of sexual assault in recent years, creating one of the worst national scandals we’ve ever seen. The many victims and survivors of Nassar’s horrific actions will never receive enough justice, but giving them a chance to look this monster in the eye and know that he’ll die in a prison cell is a step in the right direction. And if Michigan State did indeed cover up the crimes, the NCAA must come down hard and make sure there no more Larry Nassars. Mr. Emmert, this story will go in your hands next. Don’t bow down to terrible people like the aforementioned Ferguson, who had more disgusting things to say, this time about whether the NCAA would investigate the school.“This is not Penn State,” Ferguson said. “They were dealing with their football program. They’re smart enough to know they’re not competent to walk in here on this.”I’m begging the NCAA: Be competent. For once, be on the right side of history. Do your job. Help these survivors heal.Eric He is a junior majoring print and digital journalism. His column, “Grinding Gears,” runs Thursdays.last_img read more