If Larry Nassar Was Selling Unlicensed Sparty T-shirts Instead of Molesting Hundreds of Girls, Michigan State Would Have Stopped Him Immediately

By Ramzy Nasrallah on January 31, 2018 at 1:05 pm
Jan 18, 2018; East Lansing, MI, USA; MSU student and former gymnast Christine Harrison addresses Larry Nassar during her victim impact statement in Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina's courtroom, the third day of testimonials concerning the former sports medicine doctor who pled guilty to seven counts of sexual assault in Ingham County, and three in Eaton County. At her side is Larry Harrison, her dad, a retired Det. Sgt. with the Ingham County Sheriff's Department. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing
MSU student Christine Harrison addresses Larry Nassar in court © LSJ | USAT Sports

"We should be making a bigger deal about this."

Larry Nassar was never in contention to win a Heisman Trophy. He did not coordinate a national title-winning defense or work alongside a revered Hall of Fame coach for decades, either.

So if you paid any attention to the Nassar story many months and years ago when it began to surface through traditional newsroom investigative reporting you had to be told to care. Anyone who shared the story usually accompanied it with a comment like that. You know, we should be making a bigger deal about this. It was a B-movie with no star power.

The short version of the script - and most people didn’t read any of it - was that Nassar had used his reputation (Associate Professor of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University) vocation (MSU Sports Medicine clinician and lead doctor for numerous organizations, including USA Gymnastics) and location (unfettered access to the bodies of female gymnasts, most of whom were children) to pleasure himself.

A bad doctor had been molesting his patients for years. As often as he could, as often as possible. 

Whether it was basic alignment, hamstring issue, knee or ankle pain, Nassar’s treatments invariably included jamming his ungloved fingers into his patients’ vaginas and anuses for upwards of 45 minutes. Hundreds of girls went through this for years, all of whom either trusted his reputation/vocation or were too young and/or embarrassed to intervene.

shareholder primacy IS HOW YOU GET UNDERPRIVILEDGED little boys and beloved little girls BEING equally discarded by officers in State College and East Lansing. 

The vocal ones who told their parents weren’t believed, because - and this is an asset child molesters use to their advantage - it was all too unreal. Many of his assaults took place with parents in the room. Nassar would just obstruct any view of the molestation with exam room furniture or his own body.

A child predator used both a reputable university and national sports program as a sanctuary to commit crimes for a long, long, long time. The last time this exact thing made national headlines, the former coordinator of a national-title winning defense who had worked alongside a revered Hall of Fame coach for decades was the criminal.

People lined up for that movie. No one had to be told to care more than they already did.

The traditional newsroom investigation that shed light on Jerry Sandusky's crimes and revealed the years of cover-up and inaction by his superiors at Penn State only took a single summer to whip the entire country into a lather. He retired, and continued bringing children into its facilities up until he was arrested. The outrage was swift.

Contrast those quick pitchforks from 2011 to this time, when Michigan State fired Nassar well over a year ago but only after allowing him to continue seeing and molesting patients in its facilities. And that happened after it investigated and absolved him of any wrongdoing, and then hid the findings of its investigation from one of the gymnasts he molested. YOU KNOW, WE SHOULD BE MAKING A BIGGER DEAL ABOUT THIS.

Jan. 24, 2018; Lansing, MI, USA; People in the gallery react, along with prosecuting team, react as Kaylee Lornicz gives her impact statement during the final day of victim impact statements in Ingham County Circuit Court. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK
A woman in the gallery reacts to gymnast Kaylee Lornicz's victim impact statement in court | Matthew Dae Smith/LSJ via USAToday

It finally became a big deal earlier this month when gymnasts who had captured America’s hearts at past Olympics came forward, one at a time, to reveal how Nassar had molested them too, to his face. Prior to that stream of televised courtroom horror stories, the only time the general public might remember having seen Nassar on television was when Kerri Strug infamously suffered a 3rd-degree lateral sprain on the vault in the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Coach Bela Karolyi famously carried her off the floor in triumph, but it was Nassar who gave her medical attention limping off away from the vault. That happened before many of the children he violated - some of whom testified against him this month - were even born. We should be making a bigger deal about this.

The plea to care is no longer necessary in large part because America loves a good TV show. Nassar was paraded through a righteous public evisceration, with many of the girls - now women - coming forward to tear apart a bad man in the prison scrubs who was forced to listen to his own eulogy. Once it got spicy and the faces became familiar ones, people paid attention.

And now that Nassar is going to die in prison our attention has swung to Michigan State’s culpability. Penn State had the on-the-record conversations, email chains written to avoid discovery, insurance claims and whispers demonstrating it was complicit in allowing Sandusky to remain a free man in America.

If Nassar had USED Michigan State trademarks IMPROPERLY, MSU would have hammered him within hours of its discovery.

Michigan State has a newly-resigned president and athletic director who right now, despite two completed university investigations, an investigative report that was published in 2016 and numerous affidavits insist they had no knowledge of what was going on in East Lansing, selfishly and brazenly incriminating their entire administrations.

Their denials and exits were tone deaf to the point of being comical, on their way to soft landings via handsomely and publicly-funded retirements. We should be making a bigger deal about this.

Since both of them have ducked out of the room, the glare has shifted toward MSU’s revenue sports bosses Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, both of whom run programs where sexual assaults have quietly been disposed of over the years through means that in light of the revelations around Nassar appear to be institutionalized.

What is institutionalized are the priorities for what is policed by large cash machines like Michigan State.

Eleven Warriors interacts with every Big Ten school regularly for media credentialing purposes. We also have had an extensive, ongoing dialogue and mutual understanding with Ohio State’s athletic department and lawyers as to what our role in their universe is and should be, an experience which allows me to make the following statement without flinching or blinking.

If Nassar had been unlawfully exploiting Michigan State trademarks for, say, an unlicensed t-shirt business the university would have hammered him within hours of its discovery. It wouldn't have even mattered if it was successful or not - if Nassar had used green and white, printed GO GREEN GO WHITE or SPARTANS WILL or any of the numerous, often dubious marks MSU holds to promote his own interests away from the clinic he would have immediately received a cease and desist order from university lawyers.

That's what places like Michigan State look for. It's a daily whack-a-mole game for them. Here is a short list of the crimes Michigan State recently discovered and immediately put a stop to:

A Short's Brewing Company poster with "Sparty On" on it

A picture on Twitter showing Sparty holding a can of Xyience Energy Drink.

A children's baseball team in Texas that had a Spartan helmet as a team logo

In 2015 Michigan State issued 1,334 takedown requests for material it deemed in violation of its trademarks. That's not the total number, either - that's just Facebook photos. By the way, Ohio State is at least as aggressive as MSU in this regard. It's a shared priority among organizations of size and wealth. There are people deputized within these places to be on the watch for this type of wrongdoing and take action.

What we don't know is how closely other institutions monitor sexual harassment or child molestation. Again, without flinching or blinking, I'm confident it's not done with the same vigor or breadth as it is with university trademarks. Anywhere.

When Simon was tone deaf and ridiculous on her way out the door, she gave the soulless corporate slug culture that permeates atop so many large companies in America yet another face. Officers at machines like Michigan State often lose the ability to make sense of their actions, whether it’s laying off 1,000 employees and replacing them with contractors just to make one Wall Street analyst happy for 15 minutes, or failing to address the threat of a human nightmare and institution killer like Nassar. If only he had just been selling bootleg t-shirts.

Jan. 24, 2018; Lansing, MI, USA; A victim of Larry Nassar's wishing to remain unidentified shows the worn-out paint she rubbed away during victim impact statements in Ingham County Circuit Court. The text once read \"Strong.\" Mandatory Credit: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK
A victim of Larry Nassar's wishing to remain unidentified shows the worn-out paint she rubbed away during victim impact statements in court. The text once read "Strong." | Matthew Dae Smith/LSJ via USAToday

That culture is focused on shareholder primacy above all else, which is exactly how underprivileged little boys and beloved little girls were equally discarded by officers in State College and East Lansing. Their only allegiance is to the machine that rewards them with bloated incomes and personal prestige.

The resources our largest institutions and corporations pour into protecting logos and trademarks compared to what’s invested in protecting stakeholders or the general public (comprehensively expendable unless they’re donors/investors) should have told us this was possible in 2011 when Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse one week after enjoying a football game from the PSU president’s stadium box.

It should have been a warning for what was to come at Michigan State. It should be a sure sign this is happening in other places with varying scale and that we will see it again. It shouldn't require another Nassar with hundreds of victims - some of whom are blessed with familiar faces - for us to care more. We should be aggressively policing the next time, right now instead of waiting for it to happen.

And we should be making a bigger deal about that.

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