In January, The Root reported on tweets sent by 22-year old, top-tier gymnast Simone Biles regarding her pain and frustration in learning that her sexual abuse allegations against former team physician Larry Nassar had gone ignored and left out of the initial investigation against the now-convicted serial child molester who is currently serving life in prison.
Biles has expressed feelings of betrayal, particularly on the part of USA Gymnastics and USOPC (United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee), for how she and her fellow gymnasts, who are also survivors of Nassar’s abuse, have been disregarded by organizations that should have been protecting them and how their general attitude appears to be “make this go away” rather than “do right by the victims under our care.”
According to the Washington Post, while on her way to Indianapolis for a U.S. women’s training camp on Saturday morning, Biles tweeted out her frustration and anguish, once again, at USAG and USOPC in light of the organizations’ latest proposal for settling hundreds of lawsuits over its failure to protect athletes from Nassar’s predatory and abusive behavior.
“Ugh at the airport. Heading to team camp. Still want answers from USAG and USOPC. Wish they BOTH wanted an independent investigation as much as the survivors & I do. Anxiety high. Hard not to think about everything that I DON’T WANT TO THINK ABOUT!!!” Biles tweeted. “And don’t THEY also want to know HOW everything was allowed to happen and WHO let it happen so it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN? Shouldn’t people be held accountable? Who do I ask??? I’m torn at this point....”
From Washington Post:
The proposal would release U.S. Olympic officials, former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny, former coaches Martha and Bela Karolyi and others from liability. Moreover, it includes no provision for disclosing who at USA Gymnastics was aware of and hid Nassar’s abuse — details that survivors have demanded from the outset.
For the record, it was reported by the Wall Street Journal last year that Penny allegedly knew about Biles’ allegations, which were first brought to light in 2015, and intentionally left her out of the investigation (a claim Penny denies).
Biles received immediate support from fellow gymnasts and Olympians including Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse in August 2016, via an Indianapolis Star investigation that led to hundreds of Nassar’s victims coming forward.
“I’m with you Simone,” Denhollander tweeted. “Your character and courage is far above the leadership of either organization. Sponsors of these organizations need to know that the worst thing they can do for survivors, athletes and the next generation, is to keep these broken organizations alive.”
2016 Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman also supported Biles with choice words for the USAG and USOP.
“The problem is USAG & USOC don’t want anyone to know. This is a massive cover up. The only way for anyone to know what really happened is if someone forces them to release ALL documents & data to investigate. HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS HAPPEN?”
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic champion swimmer who now works as an attorney and advocate for athlete safety told the Post via email that, “Simon Biles’ exasperation is justified. As an Olympian and a fellow survivor, I urge Simone Biles not to compartmentalize her anxiety, but to use it for extraordinary performances on behalf of all athletes. I hope her righteous anger moves her to speak out even more boldly. Sexual abuse is just one symptom of athletes having no power, and the Olympic Movement executives still treat athletes like marketing opportunities for their own pocket.”
Over 500 litigants have filed suits against USAG for their failure to protect their athletes against Nassar. The organization’s initial settlement offer of $215 million, to be divided among all claimants, was immediately rejected by John C. Manly, the attorney who represents roughly 200 of the litigants, who said it showed “complete disregard for the athletes.” USAG claims it’s the maximum amount insurers could fund, but Manly says it simply isn’t enough estimating that each victim would receive $250,000 to $300,000, which he called insufficient to compensate for emotional harm and therapy, according to the Post.
From the Post:
Further details of USAG’s offer came to light Feb. 22 via reports by the Orange County Register and ESPN, which obtained a court filing enumerating a four-tiered compensation system based on victims’ level of gymnastics achievement and the setting where the abuse occurred. It ranged from $1.25 million (for gymnasts abused at the Olympics, world championships or national training camps and competitions) to $82,550.
It appears that USAG’s primary concern is for protecting their brand rather than their athletes. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are coming up and it’s in the organization’s best interests to resolve all the Nassar lawsuits before they begin, so as to not allow the scandal to overshadow the games or, more importantly, their opportunity to win back the corporate sponsors, like AT&T, Procter & Gamble and Kellogg’s, that left them in light of said scandal. Somehow that’s more important than doing what Biles called the “one job” they had to do: “protect us.”