One doesn’t want to get in the habit of ordinally ranking all of the systemic sexual assaults and rapes and founded allegations that have swept college athletics programs recently. Throw a dart and you’ll hit Vanderbilt, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, LSU, Ohio State, Baylor, Oregon State and a host of others. But, one of the more breathtaking cases to cross the wires has been the sordid tale of Michigan State/USA Gymnastics’ team doctor, Larry Nassar.
It is expansive in both its scope (hundreds of victims, spanning decades) and for the institutional complicity by USAG and Michigan State — a degree of willful blindness and outright enabling that functionally made those two institutions accomplices to the molestation of hundreds of girls and young women.
It took one helluva’ act of strength by all of these young women to stand up in open court and testify, both substantively against him and at his sentencing. Their testimony was compelling — Nassar will now spend the rest of his life in a prison cell.
But, as the old song goes, the evil that men do lives on and on.
Nassar’s actions may be over, but the extent of his victims — and the impacts upon them — are still being learned and felt, and will likely be so well after his death. And, in the case of Alabama fans, those actions have now struck a bit closer to home.
On Tuesday evening TideSports/Tuscaloosa News broke the story about two Tide tumblers that have stepped forward with their stories, Amanda Jetter and Bailie Key:
Alabama sophomore gymnast Bailie Key and former gymnast Amanda Jetter shared Tuesday on Twitter they were sexually abused by former longtime USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar.
Key is from Montgomery, Texas. A five-year member of the U.S. National Team, the 19-year-old was coached by Kim and Chris Burdette at Texas Dreams Gymnastics before coming to Alabama.
Jetter, who’s originally from Milford, Ohio, competed for Alabama from 2013-17. The 23-year-old was a member of the U.S. National Team for four years and was coached by Mary Lee Tracy at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy prior to joining the Crimson Tide.
Former Crimson Tide Sports Editor, Terrin Waack, did some solid reporting here. And, Key’s statement in particular is chilling (heavily excised below):
“I too was sexually abused by Larry Nassar...The words ‘big girl’ massage have stuck with me for a very long time. That is what he called it when speaking to me.
“I am sharing my story because I have held onto it for so long and I am ready to let it go so I can move on...
“I have so much more ahead of me that I want to accomplish in life and I will not let Larry stop me anymore.”
It is almost certain that in the long history of Alabama’s elite gymnastics program, one stocked with scores of USA Gymnasts, that Key and Jetter are merely the tip of this foul iceberg. More will likely emerge as time passes — or they may never: this is about as difficult a disclosure as one could make in their life. In any event, the lingering malevolence of Larry Nassar hangs like a pall over the entire sport, and not a single elite program is likely to have be spared.
But, for our girls and our program, this fanbase stands ready to provide all the encouragement and support Amanda, Bailie and others may need — by coming forth to expunge the malignancy of Larry Nassar, and sharing their stories with others, these ladies are defining the very meaning of the iconic phrase in our fight song: Pluck and grit.
If you have been sexually assaulted, help is her for you. Please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. You’re not alone, resources are also available at the Rape and Incest National Network.