“It kills your pride,” Draymond Green said.
The scandal currently blowing the hinges off every previously-locked door at Michigan State University has impacted many, and the star forward for the Golden State Warriors is no exception.
What started with one young woman sharing her story with a local newspaper has snowballed into a chorus of more than 150 women and girls claiming to have been abused by disgraced physician Larry Nassar.
Nassar apparently thought he could slip away quietly, into the bowels of the prison system, if he confessed. But Judge Rosemarie Aquilina had other ideas: a parade of women publicly confronting their abuser in voices at times angry and, at other times, broken beneath the weight of uttering aloud graphic details of the abuse.
Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years in prison.
During the witness statements, a sentence here and a phrase there by victims moved the conversation from a fist clenched tight on the gymnastics community to an open hand — with fingers spread wide and pointing in many directions.
At the top of the list of organizations alleged to have been complicit in the abuse (or accused of fostering a culture of enabling and cover-up) were USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and Karolyi Ranch — the key training center for the USA Gymnastics National Team, where much of the abuse is alleged to have taken place.
As the allegations rolled in on a public stage, the heads of those involved began to roll.
Beneath the strain of mounting public condemnation, USA Gymnastics decided it would move USA National Team training from Karolyi Ranch.
Additionally, despite initial resistance, Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis resigned. Now, MSU is being investigated by the attorney general for the state of Michigan as well as by the NCAA.
A culture of cover-up
The worlds of fierce, yet diminutive, acrobats and muscly college jocks collided at Michigan State University.
The link between these two worlds was Larry Nassar, who was once considered a renowned sports-medicine doctor working for both MSU and USA Gymnastics.
Rachael Denhollander, a young gymnast treated by Nassar at the age of 15, became the first athlete to publicly report (in 2016) that Nassar had abused her. She claims that before Nassar ever touched her inappropriately with his “treatments,” however, that four other women had complained to the MSU athletic department about inappropriate touching by Nassar.
Denhollander and others are now suing MSU for not acting on what they knew, when they knew it — for not taking reports of misconduct seriously or investigating responsibly. According to Denhollander, “Nobody ‘knew’ because nobody handled the reports properly. The victims were silenced.”
Denhollander singled out MSU Board of Trustees Vice Chair Joel Ferguson for his treatment of Nassar’s victims. Ferguson reportedly referred to those suing the university as “ambulance chasers looking for a paycheck.” Denhollander also accused the university more broadly of “refus[ing] to answer a single question” and “play[ing] word games.”
“The actions of adults in authority have greatly compounded the suffering of the victims,” Denhollander said.
Today, Simone Biles, arguably the best Olympic gymnast of all time, spoke out about Nassar for the first time, through tears.
Once fingers pointed toward MSU’s bad decision to keep Nassar employed despite the allegations against him, the floodgates were open. Other young women came forward with accusations that the college turned a blind eye to their reports of sexual assault — by student athletes.
MSU student athletes under fire
In June 2017, The New York Times reported that three MSU football players had been suspended over accusations of sexual assault in January of that year. But it’s not just those players in that alleged assault incident, but other players in other incidents as well.
A staff member was found to have conducted his own investigation into an allegation of sexual assault by a player rather than follow proper protocols outlined by the university.
He is no longer with MSU.
Alum Adreian Payne and teammate Keith Appling were accused of raping a female student in 2010. However, the allegation was only made public last week, during the sentencing phase of the Nassar trial.
Although the Spartans’ athletic director Mark Hollis stepped down, head football coach Mark Dantonio and head basketball coach Tom Izzo have denied wrongdoing. Dantonio, for his part, referred to claims that MSU’s athletic department mishandled claims of sexual assault by student athletes as “completely false.”
But this is not the end of the story — it’s the beginning.
Just as Rachael Denhollander became a thorn in the side of Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics, Lauren Allswede — a former sexual assault counselor at MSU — guarantees to prick open the hide of every person in a position of power in MSU’s athletic department.
For starters, Allswede has publicly challenged Dantonio and Izzo to cease the single-minded deniability and take “individual responsibility” for any role they played in fostering a culture in which sexual assault allegations were rampant and investigations into them were swept under the rug.
“Whatever protocol or policy was in place,” Allswede stated in an interview with ESPN’s Outside the Lines, “whatever front-line staff might normally be involved in response or investigation, it all got kind of swept away, and it was handled more by administration [and] athletic department officials.”
“It was all happening behind closed doors,” Allswede insisted. “None of it was transparent or included people who would normally be involved in certain decisions.”
Dantonio, who is adamant that he has no plans to retire, forcefully denied Allswede’s claims.
“I have received many questions and inquiries about [Friday’s] reports and latest reports,” he said. “I’m here tonight to say that any accusations of my handling of any complaints of sexual assault individually are completely false. Every incident reported in that article was documented by either police or the Michigan State Title IX office. I’ve always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with the cases of sexual assault. We have always had high standards in this program, and that will never change.”
“[W]e will cooperate with any investigation going forward,” Izzo said. In a separate statement, the much-revered coach made his intentions even clearer: “I’m not going anywhere and I’m definitely not retiring.”
MSU president Simon was of the same sentiment, until mounting public pressure left her with no other choice but to step down.
Allswede resigned from her position in 2015 over frustration regarding the college’s handling of sexual assault reporting and investigations. Now that the issues have been made public, she has upped the ante. Very simply, Allswede pointed out that the contents of various documents could be made public.
Perhaps Dantonio and Izzo should take this as a warning.
Considering the expansive nature of the corruption and cover-up that allowed Jerry Sandusky to molest boys for decades while Joe Paterno maintained as his top priority wins on the football field (demonstrating nary an iota of concern for the lives Sandusky was destroying), it should come to the surprise of no one if this scandal ends up going deeper than anyone could have anticipated.
It should shock not a single soul if new bombshells implicate the likes of Dantonio, Izzo, or others — ultimately forcing them to resign.
If for no other reason than its reputation, MSU would be wise to clean house rather than let more bad press spur the change. After all that has happened, it should not take yet another public outcry for an institution entrusted to create a safe learning environment for students to uphold its duties.
Future regrets for Green?
At a recent press conference, reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green addressed the scandal currently rocking his alma mater off its foundation.
“As a die-hard Spartans’ fan, and as an alumnus, and a supporter,” Green said, “I wish those affected — whether you were touched by it, broken by it, shaken by it — I wish them well in their recovery. And the victims, and other supporters, it touches everybody in a different way ... I wish them well in their road to recovery.”
Although Green’s well-wishes for the victims seemed heartfelt and sincere, he also showed support for Dantonio and Izzo, stating:
“I offer my support to Coach Dantonio and Coach Izzo in their efforts to rebuild and to help the victims in whatever way that they can. You know, they say the true test of a man and his character is, what did he do in a time of adversity? And I know those two guys will stand up and do whatever they can to help.”
Draymond Green opened up his postgame presser by commenting on the situation at Michigan State. pic.twitter.com/Lh77hlkPiN— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) January 28, 2018
Will Green come to regret throwing support behind Dantonio and Izzo?
Former MSU sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede has a much different attitude of these coaches. In fact, she purports that unwavering accountability is the only path forward that will foster true healing for the victims and lay the foundation for honest rebuilding of the university’s creed.
“Everyone at MSU — Dantonio, Izzo included, but not just them — needs to accept individual responsibility,” she said. “Not just acknowledge a social problem or rape culture but reflect more personally on their role in the culture. How do they help prevent rape or support survivors? How do they enable rapists or harm survivors?”
If it is found to be true that Dantonio dealt with a sexual assault allegation against a player by having the player call his mother (rather than reporting it to the university’s police department or to the dean of student affairs), he should come clean publicly and resign immediately.
If Dantonio or Izzo wronged victims in the past with silence, complicity, or any other means — putting team wins and $chool $pirit over people whose lives were forever altered by the unwanted penises of young men feeling entitled enough to believe they have ownership over women’s bodies — then the only character-saving action left would be for them to part ways with the university.
Even then, it would be fair for anyone, especially a person whose life had been turned upside down by trauma, to say the resignations were too little, too late. In some cases, this could be true in a literal sense. (Chelsea Markham committed suicide following abuse by Nassar and a years-long downward spiral into drug abuse and depression.)
Lauren Allswede wants people to get it. She wants the coaches and others in positions of power to understand the depths of the trauma which, sometimes, will not heal even in a lifetime.
“[Dantonio and Izzo] haven’t been to a medical forensic exam, watched people jump when a picture is taken or wince when a swab is taken,” she wrote in a letter to a journalist. “They don’t see the shame these survivors feel — the visceral collapse, the shaking leg, the knotted tissues, and averted eyes.”
They also don’t see the years of therapy to follow; the stacks of medical bills; medications to stabilize mood and alleviate symptoms of depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; hospitalizations to treat eating disorders, drug abuse, alcohol addiction, or self-harm behaviors; sick days spent in bed, unable to cope; excessive absences from work or school, resulting in lost jobs or withdrawal from classes; flashbacks, dissociation, sleep disorders; shattered relationships; suicide attempts; and suicides.
These are the effects of sexual violence.
Any institution demonstrating the inability to deal with sexual assault allegations using the severest zero-tolerance methods possible should be razed, the ground purified, and the whole thing rebuilt.
If you have survived a sexual assault or abuse and need support, know that you are not alone. Seek immediate safety and medical assistance; speak with a sexual assault or trauma counselor.