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By Skylar Haines

A standing ovation rang out at the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award, also known as the ESPYs, when the last award of the night was presented. Gymnast Aly Raisman, a Massachusetts native, softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez, and gymnast Sarah Klein took turns speaking for the group of survivors, who stood behind them. Klein criticized the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State for putting “money and medals above the safety of child athletes” But, each athlete took the time to thank Michigan police and prosecutors as well as Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, for bringing Nassar to justice and making important progress on curbing sexual abuse. “Speaking up and speaking out is not easy,” Klein shared. “Telling our stories of abuse over and over and over again, in graphic detail is not easy. We’re sacrificing privacy. We’re being judged and scrutinized, and it’s grueling, and it’s painful– but it is time.”

 

Nassar, gymnastics team doctor for Michigan State University and the USA Olympics team for many years, abused hundreds of women under the guise of medical treatment. This continued until the Indianapolis Star published an in-depth investigation on the  reports of sexual assault. The article uncovered many sexual abuses connected to USA Gymnastics in 2016. By telling the public of these truths and providing a platform for the survivors to share their stories, Nassar was held accountable. Nassar was sentenced to serve 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges and 40 to 175 years on sexual abuse charges in multiple Michigan counties.

The ESPYs recognize individual athletes, teams, game plays, and champion moments each year. As the night went on, plenty of awards were claimed for many different accomplishments. Yet, one trophy symbolized support for over a hundred female athletes.

The Arthur Ashe for Courage recognition, given to people who “[possess] strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril, and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost,” held a special meaning at the recent ESPY ceremony to the women who spoke out about Nassar’s abuse.

This comes in the height of the #MeToo Movement as well as the Time’s Up Movement, with the Nassar case often being credited to prompting a wave of people opening up about sexual abuse. All 141 of these women stood hand in hand on the stage to close the award show.

 

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