Sports Illustrated's choice to present its Inspiration of the Year award: Christine Blasey Ford

The magazine’s choice for the award itself is excellent. It’s Rachael Denhollander, the former gymnast who brought degenerate monster Larry Nassar’s reign of terror to an end. A lot of evil has been exposed by #MeToo since the first pieces about Harvey Weinstein appeared last year. Maybe no single person is responsible for exposing more of it than Denhollander is. (Sorry, Ronan!)

One of the most arresting elements of the Nassar spectacle, though, was how much corroboration there was. At last check 265 women had accused him of abuse, making him (I think) the most prodigious offender of the #MeToo era to date and surely one of the more prolific predators in American history. “How much is a little girl worth?” asked Denhollander memorably at Nassar’s sentencing hearing, as the court weighed how many years to hand him. He ended up with a term of 40 to 175 years. He’ll never get out.

Naturally, then, to honor her Sports Illustrated thought to turn to a famous alleged victim whose claim of being nearly raped by a Supreme Court justice in his teenaged years was corroborated by … no one. Not a cop, not a doctor, not a close friend. The entire point of #MeToo is that there are many more women than you might have guessed who’ve not only been sexually assaulted but whose assaults are something of an open secret among confidants or co-workers. That is, there were no shortage of alternative presenters here for SI whose victimhood isn’t in any real doubt. They could have produced a two-hour intro video for Denhollander with Weinstein’s victims alone.

So why’d they choose Ford? Becket Adams is appalled:

Next, there’s the issue of what Ford says in the endorsement video. To put it simply, it’s awkwardly self-indulgent.

“I am in awe of you, and I will always be inspired by you,” Ford says. “In stepping forward, you took a huge risk, and you galvanized future generations to come forward even when the odds are seemingly stacked against you.”

She adds, “The lasting lesson is what we all have the power to create real change, and we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by the acts of others.”

Ford is definitely talking about Denhollander and not herself. I promise.

The takeaway, unmistakably, is that SI believes Ford and wants you to believe her too, deeming her sufficiently credible to deserve the honor of honoring Denhollander. It’s a political act and it does Denhollander the disservice of making her achievement a footnote. The story isn’t about Denhollander stopping Nassar now, it’s about Christine Blasey Ford reemerging as a public figure to honor whoever that woman was who spoke up in the Larry Nassar case. Tiana Lowe calls it “upstaging” but notes that it’s worse than that:

Sports Illustrated’s blatant attempt to reignite the most politically heated case in the post-#MeToo era hurts no one more than victims. Sexists across the country already want to find reason to believe the lie that society issues incentives for women to craft false allegations. Sports Illustrated just offered bigots fodder for that conspiracy, elevating Ford, who had no evidence, to the same tier of heroism as Denhollander, who had more than enough evidence to put Nassar behind bars for life. The conflation is not only disrespectful to Nassar’s victims, but dangerous in further poisoning the victims’ rights movement with politics.

A key Democratic talking point during the Kavanaugh wars was that a Supreme Court appointment isn’t a criminal trial. The question wasn’t whether he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and should therefore spend time in prison, they noted, the question was whether we should take a chance by handing such a prestigious honor to a man who stands accused of a heinous offense. That is, even most Democrats understood that Kavanaugh could never be convicted at trial based on the whisper-thin evidence against him. The only way to block him was to emphasize that criminal trials and job interviews are grossly different matters with grossly different standards of proof.

But in that case, why is SI offering Ford as a reference point in honoring someone who did prevail at a criminal trial, spectacularly? What other conclusion is to be drawn here except that SI thinks Kavanaugh is guilty as sin and thus it’s fair to place Ford and Denhollander on equal footing? Millions of people who think Kavanaugh is innocent — and there are many millions of them — are going to hear about Denhollander’s very deserving award vis-a-vis the press for Ford and come away annoyed that the magazine chose to politicize it by inserting a controversial figure whose credibility is far more doubtful into the middle of it. I can’t understand why they’d do that to Denhollander.