'We've still got work to do': MSHOFer Jordyn Wieber won't stay silent about gymnastics abuse

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jordyn Wieber doesn't live in Michigan anymore, so it was a thrill to get to come back. Her brother was excited to meet Lions legend Calvin Johnson. She was celebrated among some of Michigan's greatest athletes, like Chauncey Billups and Shane Battier.

All and all, a great night Friday at the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the class of 2021.

Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductee Jordyn Wieber does an interview before the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Sound Board at MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit on Friday night.

Nights like these are increasingly welcomed by Wieber, who has spent the last several years speaking out against child sexual abuse, in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal that rocked the sport and directly impacted the DeWitt native. She was one of his victims, when she was a teenager.

"Yeah, I mean, this feels really good," Wieber said while walking the red carpet, before the ceremony at MotorCity Casino Hotel. "It's been a journey these past few years, just fighting for accountability and fighting some of the organizations that really failed us and didn't protect us throughout our training, and competition, in the Olympics.

"Really, my motivation and the responsibility I feel is to protect the younger gymnasts that are coming up through the ranks now, and really wanting a safe and healthy environment for them to train and compete in.

"That, right there, gives me a lot of motivation to keep speaking out, keep being an advocate for them and keep being an advocate for all survivors and victims of child sexual abuse."

More: CMU's Margo Jonker in awe of fellow 2021 MSHOF inductees, like Lions' Calvin Johnson

Wieber, 26, was a star gymnast for Team USA early last decade, winning gold at the 2012 Games in London, and three golds at the 2012 Worlds in Tokyo.

She retired from competition in 2015. and began a coaching career, first at UCLA, where she was a student, and now as the head coach at Arkansas.

In 2018, Wieber spoke at Nassar's sentencing in Lansing, describing how she was one of his more than 150 victims. Nassar was the team doctor for the Team USA gymnastics squad, and a Michigan State athletic trainer. Hewas sentenced by one federal judge and two county judges to various terms and is now serving an effective life sentence.

And the fallout in the gymnastics community, beyond Nassar, has been significant, from the highest levels of the sport to the Michigan State athletic department to mid-Michigan training and coaching facilities. One organization after another failed to protect these young gymnastics, despite many cries for help for years.

So, while Nassar is imprisoned and others are finally being held accountable, it's not over, Wieber said.

"It's a hard question to answer, it's hard to pinpoint," Wieber said when asked where the sport is today, as opposed to when she was competing, in terms of athlete safety. "There are a lot of people that are kind of understanding now the differences and some of the changes that need to happen. At the ground level, coaches are realizing what makes a good coach, and a lot of coaches I see are embracing that.

"We're still struggling at the higher levels, with the leadership of some of these massive organizations, USAG (USA Gymnastics), USOC (United States Olympic Committee), and just the lack of accountability.

"It's been hard to kind of move forward from that.

"Some positive changes are happening, but we've still got work to do."

Hall of a year

The honors keep rolling in for Johnson, who entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, and was celebrated by the the Lions, the only franchise he ever played for, during last Sunday's game.

From left, Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductee Calvin Johnson poses for a photo with Jackson Surma from Taylor North Little League Championship team as Kale Harris and Jaxon Shufeldt look on before the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Sound Board at MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit on Friday night.

That gold jacket and bronze bust in Canton, Ohio, were really nice, but there was something special about getting the call from the Michigan Sports HOF.

Johnson, 36, was born in Georgia and attended Georgia Tech, before the Lions took him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. He's been a Michigan man ever since.

"I never would've thought it," Johnson said of entering Michigan's HOF, "but this is home, this has been my home my entire adult life.

"So to be recognized for all the work I've done ... obviously, the Pro Football (HOF) and stuff like that is great, but for where I live and all the people that supported me throughout my career, it means a lot."

Even better about Friday night, no speech.

The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, which inducted nine members in the class of 2021, does a roundtable panel discussion rather than individual speeches.

"I'm good, I'm off the hook, I don't have to say anything," Johnson said. "I need a drink."

This and that

►Four of Friday's inductees were in attendance, including pioneering Detroit Free Press photographer Mary Schroeder, who captured the iconic image of Kirk Gibson celebrating his home run to seal the 1984 World Series championship, and legendary Central Michigan softball coach Margo Jonker.

Jonker had among the biggest group of supporters, including many former players — who, supposedly, were the first ones in line at the bar. Also celebrating Jonker, Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins.

From left, caregiver Kenner Murphy looks on as Michigan Sports Hall of Fame inductee Mary Schroeder greets longtime Detroit News sports writer Jerry Green before the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Sound Board at MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit on Friday night.

►Missing were Billups, the Pistons great who now is head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, and Battier, the prep star who went on to a long NBA career and now works in the Miami Heat's front office. Families of the late Tom Kowalski (sportswriter), Pete Schmidt (college football) and Ralph Wilson Jr. (Buffalo Bills owner) were in attendance.

►Also on hand was the Taylor North Little League World Series championship team, which was honored with a "Michigan Treasure" award. They soaked in the atmosphere, particularly their meet-and-greet with Johnson. Several of the boys even compared their hand sizes to Johnson's. The Detroit Red Wings' famous "Grind Line" also was honored as a "Michigan Treasure," and was represented by Darren McCarty, Joe Kocur and Kirk Maltby. Kris Draper, the Wings' director of amateur scouting, was on a work assignment.

2021 MSHOF class

PROFESSIONALS

►Chauncey Billups

►Calvin Johnson

AMATEURS

►Shane Battier

►Jordyn Wieber

COACHES

►Margo Jonker

►Pete Schmidt

MEDIA

►Tom Kowalski

►Mary Schroeder

CONTRIBUTOR

►Ralph Wilson Jr.

MICHIGAN TREASURES HONOREES

►Detroit Red Wings' "Grind Line"

►Taylor North, 2021 Little League World Series champions

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984