As he was questioned by lawyers in 2015 over and over again about what he did and did not know about sexual abuse suffered by Olympic athletes, then-U.S. Olympic Committee lawyer Gary Johansen made a choice. No matter the question, no matter which lawyer asked it, Johansen did not say “child abuse,” he did not say “sexual assault,” and he did not say “rape.” What he did say, over and over again in his deposition, was “SafeSport.” The USOC, he said each time, wasn’t responding to a crisis of rampant sex abuse. No, he said, these were “SafeSport issues.” The choice of the phrase stands out. It is, for one thing, a pleasant-sounding euphemism for a horrible set of acts. It is, for another, a phrase the USOC trademarked in 2012, before it took serious steps toward opening an “independent” arm to investigate sex abuse, before the latest round of Congressional hearings, and before Larry Nassar became a household name for his decades of preying on female athletes. By using the phrase over and over again, Johansen was able to erase people’s very real pain and suffering and replace it with a catchphrase. (Johansen, who has since retired from the… Read full this story
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