A bankruptcy judge suggested the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee needs to pull out its checkbook.
USA Gymnastics is under fire for its proposed settlement to survivors of sexual abuse, many of whom were victimized by former Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar.
According to USA Today, the gymnastics association is hoping to release its Olympic and Paralympic Committee from the agreement, without the OPC making any significant financial contribution towards its fulfillment.
Now it appears that the judge overseeing the lawsuit has sided with survivors, saying the U.S. OPC needs to be “actively participating, particularly with their pocketbook.”
“It isn’t news to anybody on this phone call, nor is it news to me, that the U.S. Olympic Committee needs to be an active participant, and I mean beyond just throwing in their insurance coverage in this,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robyn Moberly said.
However, the Olympic and Paralympic Committee suggested Moberly may not be fully aware of its role in the settlement. USOPC spokesperson Jon mason told USA Today that “virtually all” of the proposed $215 million award, alongside a “substantial” other contribution, come from policies that only apply to the committee.
Mason also told USA Today that he can’t specify the exact amount the committee is expected to pay, since the court has ordered that the mediation proceedings remain confidential.
“We understand the judge has never heard directly from the USOPC on these issues, and so may not have the benefit of a complete set of facts,” the committee told USA Today in response to a request for comment. “But we have been an active participant in the mediation for nearly a year, and we look forward to the opportunity to clarify any issues in these proceedings.”
But critics of the settlement have other qualms about the proposed agreement.
Under USA Gymnastics’ proposal, victims of abuse would receive lump-sum amounts. How much an individual victim would receive is subject to a tiered system of pay-outs, with amounts ranging from $83,000 to $1.25 million.
As ESPN notes, about 517 Nassar victims would receive awards based on where they were abused: plaintiffs who were sexually assaulted by Nassar at the Olympics or other world- and national-level competitions would receive over $1 million each. In contrast, non-elite gymnasts victimized at USA Gymnastics events would get about $500,000. Claims emanating from abuse at non-USA Gymnastics events would merit $175,000, while “derivative claims” would net $82,000.
By agreeing to the settlement, ESPN reports, plaintiffs would release a number of people and organizations from further claims, including the USOPC, former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, and several athletics coaches.
California-based attorney John Manly, who represents about 180 clients with active claims against USA Gymnastics, said earlier this year that the settlement offer would be “dead on arrival,” largely due to its stipulation that USOPC not but the subject of any further legal action.
“Let’s be clear for parents considering putting your child in a gym sanctioned by USA Gymnastics. What USA Gymnastics is saying: If we place a known pedophile in that gym and that individual rapes your child, then your child is worth $82,000,” Manly said. “My client Rachel Denhollander asked what is a little girl worth. Apparently if you’re raped by the national team doctor, you’re worth $82,000 to USA Gymnastics.”
“This is the most disgusting, reprehensible, vile view of children I can imagine,” Manly said.
Moberly, says USA Today, also said she doesn’t see any reason why the USOPC and USA Gymnastics can’t use their future earnings to contribute to a larger, future fund for victims.