Shawn Johnson East On USA Gymnastics: 'Change The System Completely'

Shawn Johnson East On USA Gymnastics: 'Change The System Completely'

Shawn Johnson East is a former Olympian and one of the most acclaimed gymnasts ever, and she's demanding change from USA Gymnastics.

Jan 23, 2018 by Hunter Sharpless
Shawn Johnson East On USA Gymnastics: 'Change The System Completely'

Editor's note: The following article contains sensitive information and may not be appropriate for certain readers.

The most important story in sports right now is the story that is most difficult to read about, talk about, and think about — but this story demands our attention and respect. 

Former USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and United States Olympic doctor Larry Nassar has been accused of abuse by at least 150 women. This is a case that is not relegated to one portion of the sport — professional, college, or Olympic — but, instead, is absolutely pandemic.

Shawn Johnson East is the latest woman to speak to directly to USA Gymnastics, addressing the organization not simply as an associated member of the Nassar scandal but as an essential culprit. 

The former Olympian was crystal clear: "We need to rewrite the book." 

The Iowan joins others, perhaps most prominently Aly Raisman, in calling for systematic, total change. Both women say that USAG and USOC prize and celebrate medals quickly, but have failed in the most utter and crucial sense of the word. 

"Talk is worthless to me," Raisman said in her statement to an Ingham County, Michigan, courthouse. "We're dealing with real lives and the future of our sport. We need to believe this won't happen again. For this sport to go on, we need to demand real change — and we need to be willing to fight for it. It's clear now that if we leave it up to these organizations, history is likely to repeat itself." 

In her video, Johnson East is once again perfectly clear in her message when saying that success on the podium means nothing if it comes at the expense of failing children.

"[USA Gymnastics has] overlooked the simple and most important fact that the people they are dealing with are minors and are children and do not have the capabilities to stand up for themselves or to speak for themselves. And when these little girls have devoted their entire lives to one dream, and they feel scared to voice something that has gone wrong because they feel that that dream could be compromised, that is disgusting. I think, as it pertains to USA Gymnastics, every single procedure, rule, guideline, rulebook you’ve ever made needs to be thrown out the window and redone."

Yesterday, three USA Gymnastics board members resigned, but it seems that the change for which Johnson East, Raisman, and others are looking is much, much more foundational.