USA Gymnastics Board Meeting: Undesired Encounter
The meeting began at 9:10am on a rainy Monday morning — unpleasant, but unavoidable, just like the subject of the meeting. None of us wanted to discuss it, but we had to. The pressure on us was mounting. As much as we did not think much of the situation, nor care too much, the allegations against Nassar were potentially catastrophic to us. The amount of money we would lose could destroy our year. We would likely lose countless sponsors too — absolutely devastating to the organization from a business standpoint. I saw in my fellow white-male colleagues’ strained facial expressions and stiff body-language the uneasiness caused by being forced into doing something they did not desire. Regardless, I walked into the boardroom. Modern décor, the sleek Danish designer chairs fitting perfectly with the custom glass conference table. Surely, you know that US Gymnastics spares nothing when it comes to looking good from the outside.
The meeting began as per usual with most of us discussing our recent vacations. We get a lot of time off in this job, but France or Italy are so cliché. One of my colleagues had recently gone to Argentina with his family — now that is adventurous. They have good wine there too. Not that we cannot get good wine, here, in America. I recall I brought up in the meeting that maybe we ought to get some Argentine wine to celebrate a likely victory over the Chinese in the upcoming World Championships. Enough of that, though, I am sure you mostly just want to hear about the actual goings-on of the meeting. Anyway, the discussion of travel and celebratory wine was obviously the high-point of the day for us. Unfortunately, we had to face reality.
The rumors going around at this time were that our best and most trusted doctor of a very long time, Larry Nassar, had been abusing his position of power to sexually harass and abuse countless women and girls from superstars like Mckayla Maroney and Aly Raisman, to unknown gymnasts on a more local level. It was hard to imagine and even harder to decide what to do about it. I believe most of us did not want to think about it, fully understanding how bumpy the road ahead would be. It would mean total upheaval, so we weighed all the options. One of my colleagues suggested that we first go to talk to Larry. We all liked him and scarcely thought it possible these rumors were true. We were preparing for them to be true, but I do not think any of us really believed anything would come of it. One of my colleagues dimmed the lights and pulled up screenshot images of testimonies by dozens of US gymnasts, who claimed to have been harassed by Nassar at least once. Many claimed dozens, hundreds of times in which Larry had made inappropriate advances.
I remember looking up from these grotesque words on the screen to notice it was pouring rain outside. Fitting, I thought. Quite possibly better out there than to have been in that room, to have been exposed to that deluge, which made the one thousand dollar Danish Designer chairs fade into the background of that dark room. Maybe we should have felt anger or remorse in that moment, but those were not the emotions prevalent amongst us men, as testimony upon testimony flashed upon the screen. Each one beat the dead horse countless times over, yet all we felt was shock-even denial. No words could be found.
Enough! We could not bear more damn testimonies, by god, we had had enough. Nearly all of us wanted to stop. It was clear enough by each repetitive guttural groan from each board member, that we could not stand anymore of this. But each time a man gave the two lawyers in the room a look, they merely shook their heads and looked downcast. Over one hundred fifty testimonies and thousands of written words. All condemning Larry Nassar — all ready and willing to destroy us. The rain outside had stopped, but the deluge upon us continued. We had to decide what to do, though, but many of us did not want to do anything at all. It may sound terrible now, but we all felt self-pity in that dark conference room in the dark USA Gymnastics headquarters, in dreary, miserable Indianapolis, Indiana.
Next on the agenda was deciding what to do. I suppose we made a few mistakes in that board meeting as well.