By CHARIS QI
Welcome to a new era of morality in sports—an era in which the voiceless and abused are finally able to receive justice.
Last Wednesday, Jan. 24, former USA Gymnastics Team Doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison for sexual assault of over 150 girls from both Michigan State University (MSU), USA Gymnastics and many other sports organizations over the past two decades. On top of the sexual assault charges, Nassar also received a 60 year sentence on federal child pornography charges. Moreover, Nassar went back to court a week later on Wednesday, Jan. 31 to hear statements from 20 more accusers.
Amidst all the indictments and controversy, one factor is outstanding: Nassar’s sentence is very fair, signifying a beginning of a time where crimes like sexual abuse will definitely not be taken lightly nor forgiven.
Several years ago, criminals such as Nassar may have been able to walk free or have minimal jail time if they merely apologized. For instance, Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in prison for sexual assault. In the end, he was released three months early because the judge feared it would ruin Turner’s future. However, apologies and short sentences are not a reality anymore.
Even when Nassar defended his actions, he was not pardoned by the judge. For example, in court last week, Nassar’s letter to the court defending his medical care was read aloud by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. The contents of the letter revealed that Nassar knew he broke the girls’ trust, but he did not feel guilty, because he blamed the media for convincing his accusers that his actions were immoral rather than owning up to his crimes. Regardless, Judge Aquilina gave him his sentence, teaching Nassar that his actions were not and will not be tolerated.
Furthermore, all 156 victims who spoke out maintained a strong stance against Nassar and his behavior. For instance, Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman addressed Nassar with the powerful statement: “We are now a force, and you are nothing.” This signifies that, now, victims have the courage to fight back against sexual assault, further reinforcing the fact that this kind of behavior is not acceptable, and hopefully encouraging more people to speak out.
Consequently, this case has had a major impact on officials and executives who were involved. Following Nassar’s sentencing, MSU president Lou Anna Simon resigned, and MSU athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement a few days later. The stepping down of both leaders demonstrates the effects of the case and the significance of authority when it comes to sexual misconduct. If higher-ups such as Simon and Hollis had acted earlier, the result may not have been so widespread and extensive. While it cannot be confirmed whether their leave is directly related to Nassar’s accusations and sentencing, it is evident that not even influential figures in the sports world can face the effects of sexual harassment.
Ultimately, Nassar’s case and sentencing has resulted in a new age. MSU, USA Gymnastics, and the US Olympic Committee can no longer ignore or disregard actions—the abused will no longer stay quiet, and the accused will have to face the consequences of justice, the law and their own conscience.