USA Gymnastics to finally reach settlement agreement with survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse

For years now, USA gymnastics and the victims of former doctor Larry Nassar have been a headlining topic in the news, whether it be forthcoming survivor stories, Nassar’s sentence, or the trauma the victims still suffer from. Just over a week ago, however, some more news emerged surrounding the issue. On December 3, 2021, news broke that the survivors of Nassar’s abuse accepted a settlement from USA Gymnastics for $400 million, then during the December 14, 2021 settlement hearing, the ultimate agreement of $380 million was announced. According to The Wall Street Journal, this agreement is “the largest ever recorded for victims of sex abuse…”

Larry Nassar’s medical career with USA Gymnastics began in 1986, when he joined the staff as an athletic trainer. Nassar’s abuse of young gymnastics can be dated back to 1992, while he was still a medical student at Michigan State. In 1996, USA Gymnastics named Nassar as their national medical coordinator, a position that allowed Nassar to travel with young gymnasts. Additionally, Nassar served as a team physician at Michigan State University, where he also used his title as a doctor to take advantage of young athletes.  It was these positions that allowed Nassar to sexually abuse young elite gymnasts for nearly two more decades. 

Although Nassar is the predator at the heart of this case, the survivors subsequently brought claims against USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committees, and Bela and Martha Karolyi for their roles in allowing the abuse not only to happen in the first place, but for allowing the abuse to span over such a long period of time. During their testimonials, many of the survivors have recounted how they came forward at some point during their gymnastics career to speak out against Nassar to these organizations, but were made to feel powerless and received no help. Former Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman recounted in her book, Fierce, how Nassar’s lack of gloves during “treatments” and appearing after hours at the athletes’ hotel rooms during tournaments was something the gymnasts were made to feel was normal behavior for medical professionals.

On January 24, 2018, former doctor Larry Nassar received a sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison for his sexual abuse of hundreds of athletes. Photo Credit: Bowienewsonline.com

Despite many attempts from victims trying to speak up against Nassar over the years, it wasn’t until 2016 when the issues really became public. Since then, the issue has been a main concern in the media. The recent $400 million settlement proposal was approved by the 500 women who suffered at the hands of Nassar. Of the 505 survivor ballots returned regarding the settlement offer, 476 of the survivors supported the settlement plan, while the remaining ballots were determined to be invalid due to lack of a signature or other issues. The settlement hearing on December 13-14 determined the ultimate sum of $380 million, with TIG Insurance Company set to pay the majority of the settlement, while USOPC to contribute approximately $34 million, and an additional loan of $6 million to USA Gymnastics from the USOPC. Part of the settlement deal includes the agreement that the survivors will end their legal claims against USA Gymnastics and any other parties involved. Once the legal battle is officially finalized, USA Gymnastics looks to emerge from bankruptcy and establish a better foundation for the organization going forward.

Given the lengthy history of Nassar’s abuse and the overwhelming number of survivors bringing claims against Nassar and USA Gymnastics, it’s not surprising that this settlement has been in the works for years. One of the earlier settlement proposals was released in August 2021 for approximately $425 million. Earlier proposals from USA Gymnastics were nearly half the currently accepted settlement offer, with an offer of a $215 million settlement being made (and subsequently rejected) by the survivors in January 2020. 

The survivors clearly did not settle for anything less than what they believe they deserve. The December 14th settlement hearing solidified the fate of one of the most highly publicized lawsuits in the last decade, and hopefully provides the survivors some sense of closure. 

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Co-President of the Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Law Society.

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