ESPN will award the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to the sexual-assault survivors who spoke up about the abuses of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, the network announced Wednesday.
The award will be handed out at the 2018 ESPYS on July 18.
“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,” ESPN executive Alison Overholt said in a release. “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.”
Nassar was first publicly accused of sexual assault in September 2016, when Rachael Denhollander and another former gymnast told the Indianapolis Star that the doctor had molested them in the 1990s and early 2000s. Over the following 18 months or so, at least 300 other survivors have come forward with allegations against Nassar. That group included Olympians such as Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, as well as scores of less famous victims whose voices were nonetheless important to the cause.
Nassar has since been sentenced to three separate prison sentences: a 60-year bid in federal prison on child pornography charges, plus 40-175 years for criminal sexual conduct committed in Ingham County, Michigan and another 40-125 years for criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County, Michigan. He will first be eligible for parole in 2117, when he would be 154 years old.
Not only have Nassar’s survivors succeeded in getting the former doctor locked up, but they have also brought some amount of accountability to Nassar’s enablers. Numerous top administrators have resigned at both Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, and both institutions have pledged to be extra diligent in the future in preventing abuses like Nassar’s. On Wednesday, Michigan State reached a settlement with 332 of Nassar’s victims for a total of $500 million.
Previous recipients of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award have included Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Pat Tillman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Nelson Mandela, Pat Summitt, Caitlyn Jenner, Zaevion Dobson and others. Last year’s award was given to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics.