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Nassar Gymnastics Scandal Provokes Rage -- Albeit Late

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Now that the great evil known as Larry Nassar has been purged from the national consciousness, we move on to the next phase of the Great Gymnastics Scandal of 2018.

It’s the part where everyone puts on the breastplate of righteous indignation and swings the sword of outrage and condemnation.

That breastplate gives the wearer the moral fiber to puff out their chest in anger at Nassar.

And the sword permits the bearer to pierce any and everyone who might have been complicit in the horrors that Nassar visited upon hundreds of young gymnasts across the country.

Please don’t mistake what I say over these few minutes as excusing what Nassar is convicted of doing to scores of young women for years under the guise of treating them in his role as a medical doctor.

A Michigan judge was right last week when she said she had signed Nassar’s death warrant in sentencing him to between 40 and 175 years in prison. And if there is such a thing as reincarnation, Nassar should come back and do even more time.

Likewise, what is said here is not meant to provide comfort or exoneration to the officials of USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University or anyplace where Nassar hung his disgusting shingle and preyed on these girls and young women with the silent assent of those institutions.

But the swift and universal declarations of virtuous rage are, from this vantage point, just too convenient and just a little too late.

For nearly two years, the Indianapolis Star newspaper pursued this story with the kind of zeal that good journalists employ to right wrongs.

The Star reporters and editors operated practically alone, even after the story ballooned into a scandal that should have offended people nationally and internationally from the first story.

Yet, it wasn’t until those more than 150 young women displayed the courage to face down Nassar in court that the broader media and the larger public gave a damn.

And, if we’re truthful, the fuse on community anger wasn’t really lit until Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman provided the all-important soundbite by a famous person that the story exploded.

Again, this is not to diminish the damage and pain that Raisman suffered, but it is to recognize that there were hundreds others who had similar stories, but didn’t have an Olympic gold medal around their necks to make producers and editors care.

This collective fury resembles the scorn that was heaped upon Penn State in the wake of revelations over six years ago that an assistant football coach molested and sexually abused young boys while authorities who should have known better turned a blind eye.

Then, as now, the media locked onto the presence of a well-known figure, then Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, as the linchpin of attention that should have paid all along.

Now, as then, the NCAA is investigating the conduct of Michigan State, to see if athletic officials did all they could to bring a halt to Nassar’s vile conduct.

The NCAA was out of its element then, and likely should get out of the way now, to let justice prevail, even if it is late.

And that’s how I see it for this week. 

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.