NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Silence isn’t the way to handle Nassar scandal

The conviction of former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar on seven counts of criminal sexual conduct for molesting girls under the guise of medical treatment has already led to the resignation of MSU president Lou Anna Simon and the retirement of athletic director Mark Hollis. The MSU basketball and football coaches have also been quizzed about sexual misconduct allegations surrounding their programs.

Prior to Saturday’s basketball game in Bloomington, Indiana University insisted that its fans refrain from heckling the Spartans’ players or coaches in the wake of the scandal. When students arrived inside Assembly Hall, they received notes that read in part:

“We cheer and chant in a positive manner that does not belittle our opponents with degrading language and behavior. Especially today, our thoughts of support are with the survivors at Michigan State, and nothing may be said or done to reference them in a negative way. We have zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior, and you will be removed from the game if you do not cooperate.”

While MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo was grateful for the gesture on one hand, he refused to talk about the sexual misconduct allegations surrounding his program. He’s been pressed for responses after each of the Spartans’ last three games.

Football coach Mark Dantonio strongly denied an ESPN report, which questioned how the two coaches have dealt with allegations against their players

“I just think it’s inappropriate for me to say anything right now,” Izzo said after Saturday’s 3-point victory over IU. “Our whole focus has been on the healing process for the survivors, the healing process for the university and our community and for me to coach our basketball team. So I don’t have a date (to comment).”

ESPN’s Lauren Theisen wrote that Nassar “was a product of a system that includes both the university and local law enforcement, who appear to have ignored women who were reporting sexual assault and abuse. Seems like it’s worth connecting the dots to other instances of sexual assault on campus to paint a larger picture. They’re (coaches Izzo and Dantonio) at the center of the story because they’ve run their programs for a combined total of nearly 35 years, and they’re the school’s most visible and listened-to leaders.”

Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal wrote that Izzo “isn’t defiantly defending himself, as Mark Dantonio did on Friday. Nor is he admitting anything … he owes his community answers and assurances that, over time, he hasn’t treated accusations of sexual assault or abuse toward women by his players with callous disregard. If the state attorney general’s investigation shows that Izzo and his program were dismissive or ignored appropriate steps, he’s in trouble and should be.”

If there is nothing for Izzo to hide, then stonewalling isn’t the way to go.