My favorite sports-radio program is The Dan Le Batard Show on ESPN. Hilarious and self-deprecating, it uses humor as a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine of serious commentary go down. It’s like a postmodern sports-radio show with the kind of commentary a lot of sports fans are trying not to hear.
Last week on the program, the conversation was about the #MeToo campaign, created to raise awareness of sexual violence experienced by—but not limited to—women, through personal testimony. The campaign is a creation of Tarana Burke, and it has been a viral success, with tens of millions of shares on Facebook and millions of Twitter responses, and has contributed to a growing consciousness of the issues that women face. Those on the show spoke about how recent revelations have turned Hollywood upside-down, and the host of the show, Dan Le Batard, asked his co-hosts the question (forgive me, but I am paraphrasing): Do you think this #MeToo campaign will also roil the sports world?
It’s an understandable question, but it is also more than a couple of weeks past when it should have been asked. The thing is, the #MeToo campaign has already roiled the world of sports. It may not have touched predators with the profile of Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey, and its survivors might not have the Q rating of Gwyneth Paltrow or Angelina Jolie, but it’s being felt all the same. From the brave first-person piece by basketball star Breanna Stewart at The Players Tribune to the words of Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, we should not turn a deaf ear to what’s being revealed in the sports world just because it puts the focus on women athletes, who always seem to have to take a back seat when it comes to media coverage.
The story that has opened the most eyes was when Maroney took to social media to voice allegations against former doctor and trainer Larry Nassar, who at the time of this writing is facing 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault. Then 1992 gold-medalist gymnast Tatiana Gutsu also came forward with her own accusations against a former teammate, Vitaly Sherbo. While their accounts are searing, none of this should be shocking. Stories of sexual abuse and mistreatment in the world of women’s gymnastics have been widely known at least since the 1995 book by Joan Ryan, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. Yet the perception after that chilling exposé was that this world had cleaned itself up. This has been shattered by what’s been revealed about Larry Nassar.