Updated on January 24, 2018, at 9:29 p.m. ET
It was an arresting moment, even on a day full of them. The Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman stood in front of a courtroom last Friday and addressed Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University doctor who’s been accused by upwards of 150 women of sexually abusing them over more than two decades. “Larry,” she said from the podium in the Lansing, Michigan, courtroom, “you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing.”
By the time Raisman’s 13-minute testimony ended, she had castigated not only Nassar but also everyone who she contended had enabled and protected him, including the leadership at USA Gymnastics. A video clip of Raisman giving her statement was disseminated across social media and aired on television. The New York Times transcribed her words and printed them in full. Finally, more than a year after Nassar was first publicly accused of molesting two young gymnasts, America had woken up to what is being described as the largest sexual-abuse scandal in U.S. sports history.
Until that point, the case had gotten relatively little national attention. After 16 months of near-silence from national news outlets, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News had devoted fewer than 20 minutes total to the story in the four days prior to Raisman’s statement, according to the watchdog organization Media Matters. Meanwhile, USA Gymnastics—the sport’s governing body—had largely evaded consequences for its failure to respond quickly and appropriately to Nassar’s abuse. Steve Penny, its former president, had resigned last March (and according to The Wall Street Journal walked away with $1 million in severance), but the rest of the organization essentially remained intact. Then, on Monday, as more of Nassar’s victims joined the dozens who had already testified at his sentencing hearing, USA Gymnastics (USAG) announced that three board members, including its chairman, had “tendered their resignations,” effective immediately. That a reckoning arrived as soon as the story reached the mainstream consciousness did not seem like a coincidence.