Sports fans’ apathy toward gymnastics sex scandal is unacceptable

Over 100 female gymnasts have come forward accusing their former doctor of sexual assault. This story has gotten shockingly little attention compared with other sex abuse scandals in more prominent sports. Do you know about this story? Are you outraged by it?

Because women’s gymnastics is not a sport with a huge, cultish following in the United States, it seems that athletes fighting a sexual abuser are not of great interest to the general public.

The Huffington Post listed the coverage this story has received: excellent coverage from The Indy Star and papers in Michigan. Several stories from The Wall Street Journal, a 60 Minutes interview, a column and two opinion pieces in The New York Times. But compared with other stories of sexual misconduct in sports, Huff Po points out, this has gotten little attention. Why haven’t avid ESPN fans been talking about this?

There is something deeply troubling about that. When a college football coach is accused of sexual assault, everyone knows about it. But when hundreds of women accuse a gymnastics coach, doctor and four-time Olympic Games Team USA physician of inappropriate touching, it is not a big story. Whether this is because it is about women instead of men or gymnastics instead of football, something is out of alignment with people’s priorities. So here is what happened.

The Huffington Post reports that Larissa Boyce told a gymnastics coach that her doctor, Larry Nassar, touched her inappropriately. Boyce reported this 20 years ago, when she was only 16 years old. She was told that “she must have misunderstood the procedure,” and believed this until September 2016, when two former gymnasts came forward, saying they were sexually abused by Nassar.

Since then, over 100 women have accused Nassar of molesting them. These allegations span from 1997 to 2016.

The Indianapolis Star did a fantastic job of investigating this issue, beginning their “Out of Balance” investigation in March 2016. They found that USA Gymnastics “has followed a policy of not reporting all sexual abuse allegations against its coaches. That practice has enabled coaches to continuing preying on children despite repeated warning signs.”

The newspaper called attention to the accusations against Nassar and also showed how deep the problem is in USA Gymnastics, finding that at least 368 gymnasts have alleged sexual abuse in the last two decades.

The Indy Star’s investigation should be the next “Spotlight” movie in a couple decades. Their work is commendable and crucial. However, it has not gained the attention, shock and outrage that it should have.

For example, the sex abuse scandal involving Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was pervasive in media as details came out. One glance at the Amazon reviews of Sandusky’s book, “Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story,” published in 2000, will show the complete disgust and revulsion that everyone has for the rapist and child molester. But, as The Huffington Post points out, the numbers in these cases are vastly different. Sandusky was accused of sexually assaulting 30 boys, while Nassar has been accused by over 100 women.

Sexual crimes are deeply disturbing and upsetting. It is upsetting that these acts are committed in the first place and horrifying that, when reported, they are often swept under the rug to protect a person or an organization. When victims are able to speak out and attempt to bring justice to the perpetrator, it should not be ignored by the media in any situation.

A huge scandal like this, and one that involves Olympic athletes, must not be ignored. This is not just the fault of the media. We are all responsible for being informed and outraged about what is happening. So called “sports fans” should be consistent in their reaction to sports scandals involving athletes. Though a football player is not involved, this is still worthy of attention.

The lack of coverage of this scandal is a deeply troubling indication of how women in sports are viewed and how much sports fanatics care.

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