Michigan State needs to add a few more commas and zeroes to that $500 million settlement check to victims of the Larry Nassar scandal.
On Tuesday night, the school’s board of trustees agreed in principle to a deal that will pay $425 million to settle after a private mediation with the victims. The remaining $75 million will stay in reserve should more women and girls come forward.
The settlement isn’t requiring anyone to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and is believed to be the largest settlement ever in a sexual misconduct case involving a university. MSU’s settlement is nearly five times larger than the $109 million Penn State University reached with the 35 men and boys who accused ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexually abusing them.
However, the deal does not acknowledge the claims made against Michigan State.
Translation: Just take this money so that we can make this go away because we’re never going to fully admit how deep this systemic issue is within the culture of our university.
Michigan State still refuses to own this.
If you forgot, not only did the school turn a blind eye to Nassar’s abuse for decades; he’s also an alum. Nassar worked at Michigan State from 1997 to 2016 and is currently serving a 60-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty last year to child pornography charges. He later pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault against girls and women he was supposed to treat and was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in state prison.
“I’m very happy that we’re done with litigation,” said former gymnast Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse. “I’m very grateful for the historic number that acknowledges some of the hardships that these women have suffered. I’m also very disappointed in a missed opportunity to create meaningful policy changes.”
The failure on Michigan State’s part to change policy and publicly acknowledge the victims’ claims is why the settlement check should be doubled.
Because if Michigan State can’t admit how the families of 332 claimants were forever damaged, then the university that has an endowment of at least $2.7 billion needs to up the ante.
“We’re not done,” said attorney David Mittleman, who represents dozens of Nassar’s survivors. “This is an agreement that I think is in the best interest of all the parties and we look forward to continued dialogue with USAG, USOC, and Twistars. We do believe they were enablers and complicit in allowing this to happen.”
While it may be true that Michigan State has started to make changes to its Title IX policy, and parted ways with former president Lou Anna Simon and former athletic director Mark Hollis, a recent report conducted by a law firm “overwhelmingly concluded that there is room for significant improvement.”
On Wednesday, it was announced that the hundreds of athletes who came forward and spoke out about the sexual abuse they suffered from Nassar during his stints with USA Gymnastics and Michigan State will receive the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2018 ESPYs in July.
“We are honored to recognize the courage of these women at The 2018 ESPYs, to acknowledge the power of their voices, and to shine a very well-deserved spotlight on what speaking up, fighting back, and demanding accountability can accomplish,” said Alison Overholt, Vice President and Editor in Chief of ESPN The Magazine, espnW and The ESPYs. “They have shown us all what it truly means to speak truth to power, and through their bravery, they are making change for future generations. By honoring this group who spoke out, we aim to honor all of those who are survivors of abuse.”
For decades, adults at Michigan State were part of an environment that allowed Naasar to abuse children, or willfully turned a blind eye to it. Those same adults were the ones who also watched as we witnessed sexual assault and abuse scandals take place at Penn State and Baylor University.
Which leaves me to believe that administrators in East Lansing were either arrogant enough to believe it wouldn’t happen to them, or worked even harder to cover things up.
And if that was the case, there are only two options left.