141 Gymnasts Shared 1 Inspirational Award, and It Had Nothing to Do with Flipping
On July 18, ESPN aired their annual ESPY awards, an evening that celebrates the best and brightest in sports. It was what you would expect from an awards ceremony: lots of pomp and circumstance, drawn-out speeches, and plenty of fancy dresses on the red carpet. But it also featured some pretty touching moments, too.
For instance, every year, the network honors an athlete by presenting them with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, a prize that, according to ESPN, reflects “the spirit of Arthur Ashe, possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs.”
It’s an influential honor that, in the past, has been given to a laundry list of impressive recipients, including Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Caitlyn Jenner, Michael Sam, and Muhammad Ali, just to name a few.
This year, a host of deserving athletes were nominated, but the prize went to a very worthy collective of bold survivors: the more than 200 gymnasts and Michigan State University athletes that testified against former USA Gymnastics doctor and convicted sex offender, Larry Nassar.
Within this group of athletes included some of the most celebrated of all-time, including recent gold medalists, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, and Maggie Nichols, as well as Michigan State softball player, Tiffany Thomas Lopez.
Though not all of those mentioned were present at the ESPYs, an astounding 141 showed up for a stirring moment that was led by the very first-known survivor of Nassar’s abuse, Sarah Klein.
Klein accepted the award on behalf of her “sister survivors.” She also did her part to shine a light on the members of law enforcement who worked especially hard to push this more-than-30-year-old case into court.
“Speaking up and speaking out isn’t easy. Telling our stories of abuse over and over again in graphic detail isn’t easy,” Klein stated. “We’re sacrificing privacy. We’re being judged and scrutinized, and it’s grueling and it’s painful, but it’s time.”
After Klein finished her speech, Olympic gold medal winner Aly Raisman kicked off hers by listing the years that the abuse has been reported— and had subsequently been ignored.
“1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar’s abuse,” Raisman stated. “All those years we were told ‘You are wrong. You misunderstood. He’s a doctor. It’s OK. Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered. Be careful. There are risks involved.’ The intention: to silence us in favor of money, medals, and reputation.”
It was a particularly stirring moment that showcased a mere fraction of the number of survivors that Nassar abused over the years. In the speeches, organizations like USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University were called out for not intervening sooner, even though those working in them had allegedly known about the abuse for an astonishing two decades prior.
The bravery and persistence shown by this group of women led to Nassar’s 40-to-175-year prison sentence, one that the disgraced former doctor is now serving in Michigan. Good to know that justice has been served!
To learn even more about this powerful ESPY’s moment, and to see all 141 survivors standing united on stage, be sure to watch the video below.
We’d love to hear your take on this year’s Arthur Ashe recipient. Did you find the speeches to be moving? Were you shocked to hear about Larry Nassar’s crimes? How do you think this tragedy will change the face of American sports?