In July, hundreds of women, rather than a single person, will be singled out at the ESPYs, where the scores of victims who have spoken out about their sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Over the last year, women have spoken eloquently about the abuse they suffered over the years and faced Nassar with their accusations in court, relating stories of the abuse they endured. In January, he was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years and a maximum of 175 years in Michigan state prison – a life sentence for the 54-year-old former physician who also faces a 60-year sentence for federal child pornography crimes.
On Wednesday, Michigan State agreed to pay $500 million to 332 alleged victims in a settlement of lawsuits. The settlement will pay $425 million to the 332 girls and women who have come forward to date, averaging about $1.28 million per victim. Michigan State is setting aside an additional $75 million in trust for victims who may come forward in the future. Others, including the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and former Olympic coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, still face lawsuits.
“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,” Alison Overholt, vice president and editor in chief ESPN The Magazine, espnW and the ESPYs, said in a statement released by ESPN. “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.”
Past winners have included Michael Sam, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Muhammad Ali, Pat Tillman, Pat Summitt and Billie Jean King. Caitlyn Jenner was a controversial selection in 2015, months after she announced that she is a transgender woman. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics, was honored last year.
Like the “Silence Breakers,” the #MeToo women who were honored as Time’s 2017 person of the year, the Nassar victims will have another moment to increase awareness, continuing a journey that began when decorated gymnasts like McKayla Maroney began coming forward with their stories. Maroney, for one, wondered aloud not long ago if her career had been worth what she had gone through.
“I definitely see a future where athletes are safe and succeeding. My team won gold medals in spite of USA Gymnastics, MSU, and the USOC,” Maroney said in April. “They don’t build champions, they break them. But we’re changing that.”
The ESPYs will be shown live on ABC at 8 p.m. July 18.