Less than a week after joining other survivors to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, gymnast Aly Raisman said the U.S. Olympic Committee's new CEO wouldn't "even say hi" to her. On Tuesday, following a Senate hearing on Olympic sex abuse, Raisman said she tried to introduce herself to Sarah Hirshland — the committee's incoming head — only to be told that Hirshland had "been instructed" not to speak to her. According to USOC, Hirshland immediately sent Raisman an apology and asked for a "redo."
Earlier this year in a Michigan courtroom, Raisman confronted former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who she said sexually abused her for years. At the same time, Raisman has also been vocal in her criticism of both USA Gymnastics and the USOC, arguing that they failed to adequately protect gymnasts from Nassar's abuse.
Raisman therefore took Hirshland's reaction as further proof that the USOC doesn't care as much about survivors as it says it does. Her brief encounter with Hirshland reportedly took place after a press conference and Senate subcommittee hearing about sexual abuse in the Olympics.
“I said, ‘Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me,’ and she kind of ignored me, but I was like, ‘excuse me,’” Raisman said after the hearing. “So she looked at me because I wasn’t going to let her leave. I said, ‘I’d really like to introduce myself to you.’ She’s like, ‘I’ve been instructed I can’t talk to you.’ So I said, ‘You can’t just say hi to me?’ She said no and then rushed out.”
According to ThinkProgress, USOC interim CEO Susanne Lyons later told Raisman's mother that Hirshland hadn't been instructed not to speak with survivors. Lyons suggested that perhaps Hirshland refused to talk after mistaking Raisman for a reporter. Raisman was wearing a shirt that read "We are here, we have our voices and are not going anywhere," a quote that came from Raisman's statement confronting Nassar back in January. The USOC told ThinkProgress that Hirshland did not confuse Raisman for a member of the media, though there had been a misunderstanding.
According to USA Today, Hirshland was named CEO earlier this month but will not have any official responsibilities in that role until she takes over on Aug. 20. However, though she did not attend Tuesday's Senate hearing in an official capacity, it was still her first public appearance at an Olympics-related event since she was selected as the new head of the USOC. Consequently, she reportedly emailed Raisman to apologize as soon as she heard her criticism.
“It was a sincere apology,” Hirshland said, according to USA Today, “and my sincere ask for a redo.”
This is Raisman's latest unpleasant brush with USOC and USA Gymnastics officials, ThinkProgress reported. Earlier this year, Raisman told The Wall Street Journal that it took her 31 months to hear from former USOC CEO Scott Blackmun after she first reported being abused by Nassar. Blackmun resigned in February, citing health concerns, but Raisman slammed the USOC for what she called its lack of accountability to survivors of Nassar's abuse. Similar to her recent encounter with Hirshland, Raisman highlighted the resignations of top USOC and USA Gymnastics officials as signs that the organizations did not necessarily care about survivors.