‘A story we might not be talking about’

‘A story we might not be talking about’

‘A story we might not be talking about’
Athlete A also follows a team of investigative journalists at the Indianapolis Star who in 2016 published a report on USA Gymnastics’ failure to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement. After the report came out, Denhollander approached the investigative team to share her story, sparking the attention of Cohen and Shenk, who closely tracked the Star‘s work in exposing the case. The co-directors wanted to give attention to the journalists for “unearthing a story that we might not be talking about.”

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“These guys in a small newsroom, they changed the lives of hundreds of women,” Shenk says. “We wanted to show people who are in the trenches of reading 500-page depositions and remind of the rigor they go through with fact-checking and the pressure of deadlines.”

Cohen says much of the film’s focus was on the people who first spoke out against Nassar and the collective effort it took to get people to take their accusations seriously. She credits the women who came forward, the journalists who took the time to investigate the story, the attorneys who represented the survivors and the detectives and prosecutors who were eventually responsible for arresting and investigating Nassar.

“We were positioned to tell this story of how things can go right if you create a situation in which justice can be served,” she says. As they compiled years of evidence against Nassar, the filmmakers were able to see how many of the people who should have taken responsibility for protecting the gymnasts fell short—whether by failing to report his abuse to authorities or by “handing the baton” to someone else to handle the situation. “We had the goods to tell this in-depth story of not only how he was brought down, but also an investigation into how he was allowed to succeed.”

USA Gymnastics has made some steps toward taking accountability in the years since Nassar’s sentencing, though the organization continues to face criticism over the way it handled the case. The Károlyi Ranch has since been shut down and Steve Penny, the former president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, was indicted on a felony count for tampering with evidence related to the Nassar investigation. Victims of abuse, including top gymnasts Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, have said USA Gymnastics’ multimillion-dollar settlement offer is not enough and that the organization must do more to explain how Nassar got away with molesting so many girls for so long.

Rather than offer answers about what USA Gymnastics should do going forward, Athlete A closes on a hopeful note of what gymnastics itself can look like when athletes are removed from an abusive environment. Nichols, who became a top gymnast for the University of Oklahoma, shares in the film that she has found a reinvigorated love for the sport, especially after leading the team to a national championship in 2017.

“In 2017, I was the last person to go. So I did probably the best vault that I did the whole season,” she says in the film. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before and that’s probably one of the best moments of my life.”

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