The sponsors quit first, Under Armour, Hershey’s and Procter & Gamble the first to go as the deoth of abuse and crisis at USA Gymnastics and the heart of the realm governed by the United States Olympic Committee became more obvious. Now, the blazers have started to fall on their swords.
As the sentencing hearing for former team doctor Larry Nassar continues in Michigan and more than 140 athletes line up to deliver victim impact statements before a judge announces the term their abuser will serve behind bars, several leading figures at USA Gymnastics resigned from the federation.
Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with victims as young as six years old. His crimes date back decades. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges.
If he has been in the dock, so, too, now are the sports governors on whose watch the abuse unfolded. When some of the abuse cases came to light, the federation and its lawyers sought to silence athletes with hush-money agreements.
USA Gymnastics president and CEO Kerry Perry issued the following statement.
“USA Gym Board of Directors executive leadership – Chairman Paul Parilla, Vice Chairman Jay Binder & Treasurer Bitsy Kelley – tendered their resignations, effective Jan. 21, 2018. The Board of Directors will identify an interim chairperson until a permanent selection is named. We support their decisions to resign at this time. We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organization. As the board identifies its next chair and fills the vacant board positions, we remain focused on working every day to ensure that our culture, policies and actions reflect our commitment to those we serve.”
Last week, USA Gymnastics announced it was terminating its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Texas: the centre served as the national team’s training base – and one of the places where many of Nassar’s victims were sexually assaulted.
Social media abounds with tags such as #metoo, #transparency, #leadership, #accountability, #cleansport and #athletewelfare.
The tide is turning.
The events in gymnastics, in terms of abuse that is not always sexual in nature ands in terms of how the guardians of sport handle bad news, are relevant to a culture prevalent far and wide in Olympic sports, as we noted in this article that relates the testimony of Olympic gym champion Aly Raisman,
- The issues raised were at the heart of No 1 on the SwimVortex Top 20 stories of 2017. #MeToo – in sport, too