On the Bench: America needs to do better by its athletes

On Jan. 24, Larry Nassar, former U.S. Olympic medical coordinator, was sentenced to up to 175 years following an emotional hearing sentencing where dozens of women flooded the Michigan courtroom to testify about incidents of sexual assault. Presiding County Circuit Court judge, Rosemarie Aquilina, famously tossed Nassar’s letter to the court aside as she told him that she was “signing his death warrant.” The world seemed to heave a sigh that these women were finally able to get the justice that they deserved.

Yet, it’s almost impossible to ignore that it took more than 20 years for justice to be served. It’s appalling that it took a band of 156 women to achieve this. It is devastating that, according to NBC News, Nassar could have been stopped on at least eight occasions if information wasn’t covered up and those closest to the victims believed them the first time. It is downright offensive that it took the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) until Jan. 24 to launch a formal investigation.

America needs to do better by its athletes across the board. Organizations like the USOC should not be able to simply allow its board to clean house and get a facelift without taking appropriate steps to address the underlying issues; and the public should hold them accountable.

America’s athletes tirelessly work to perfect their crafts for our enjoyment. The least we could do to ensure that the companies and organizations that they labor under aren’t exploiting them. That goes for all sports, from gymnastics to football.

There is no reason why a doctor, who was entrusted with the wellbeing of the nation’s finest athletes, should have been able to abandon his career as a medical professional to become a serial sex offender; and certainly not for 20 years. Yet, we’re adamant that if we were in the same position to have been a whistleblower, we would have sounded the alarm bells with a vengeance. But, majority of the population is comfortable with turning a blind eye to the NFL’s CTE brain damage cover ups because the Super Bowl is coming up, right?

Athletes are being scarred while Americans continue to enjoy their favorite pastimes. If we say that we love our athletes, and if we can’t do without seeing them hop, jump, skip and dance across our television screens on a regular basis, then we should begin by protecting them. It’s high time that we start making some changes and really do better by our athletes.

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