Spartan Silence: Crisis at Michigan State (ESPN)
Sexual assault, in recent years, has been referred to more broadly as “rape culture,” precisely because sexual violence doesn’t exist in a vacuum—it is ultimately supported and perpetuated through the sometimes intentional, sometimes banal institutional forces that allow the acts to occur by systemic intransigence, incompetence, and at times, intentional malfeasance. Spartan Silence: Crisis at Michigan State demonstrates precisely how rape culture works systemically, and the traumatic and horrible costs it has on women’s lives. ESPN’s programs E:60 and Outside the Lines engaged in a series of reports on Michigan State University’s handling of Dr. Larry Nassar’s sexual assault charges. Through tough original reporting, the programs dig deep into Michigan State’s institutional knowledge of Nassar’s abuse of hundreds of gymnasts and athletes at the university dating back almost two decades. What they find is repeated patterns of denial, inaction, and information suppression by MSU officials. Indeed, the reporting extends beyond Nassar and gymnastics to include rapes and cover-ups by the vaunted MSU football and basketball players and coaches, with weighty implications for the athletic director and department and even MSU president Lou Anna Simon. For the first time on camera, the programs provide testimony by a former sexual assault counselor who recounts the rape culture machinery at work—insulated internal handling of cases, lack of transparency, and discouraging victims from seeking external resources. Indeed, it was only because one gymnast went to local police and avoided MSU machinery entirely in 2016 that the investigations into Nassar began. The reporting includes powerful testimony by many abuse survivors, culminating in two powerful sequences—a roundtable discussion of abuse and survival by five former athletes and more than 140 “sister survivors” walking onstage to accept the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the 2018 ESPYS. For looking beyond the heinous deeds of one evil individual to the broader MSU system that allowed rape and sexual assault to continue for almost two decades, Spartan Silence wins a Peabody Award.
Executive Producer: Jimmy Pitaro, Connor Schell, Rob King, Kevin Merida, Alison Overholt, Andy Tennant, Maura Mandt, Jeff Smith. Senior Coordinating Producer: Dwayne Bray. Coordinating Producers: Michael Baltierra, Tim Hays, Carolyn Hong, Ben Houser, David Sarosi. Senior Deputy Editor: Chris Buckle, Jena Janovy. Deputy Editor: David Duffey. Senior Editor: Laura Purtell, Aimee Crawford. Managing Producer: Rayna Banks, Vin Cannamela, Heather Lombardo, Lindsay Rovegno. Reporters: John Barr, Paula Lavigne, Dan Murphy, Tisha Thompson. Feature Producers: David Lubbers, Nicole Noren, Sara Johnson, Caitlin Stanco. Field Producer: William Weinbaum, Arty Berko. Line Producers: Robbin Dunn, Shayna Hayes, Sarah Mitchell. Show Hosts: Bob Ley, Jeremy Schaap. Show Director: Biana Peltin. Associate Producers: Nick Aconfora, Alex Eliasof, Jason Kostura, Eric Lynch, Julia Theaman, David Sabino. Editors: Nathan Hogan, Jason Morris, Warren Wolcott, Cathy Honeywell, Kimberly Brown. Writers: D'Arcy Maine, Aaron Cohen. Coordinating Studio Operator: Lindsay Troncone. Senior Producer: Caroline Schuster. Producer: Katie Walsh. Director of Photography: Natalie Kingston.