Sports Illustrated recently announced Rachael Denhollander as the recipient of the 2018 Inspiration of the Year award, citing her bravery to be the first to come forward about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. On Tuesday evening, the honor was bestowed upon the lawyer and former gymnast by Christine Blasey Ford, who similarly was the first to publicly accuse a man of sexual assault — now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
In a video posted to the publication’s Twitter account, the psychology professor introduces Denhollander as a “woman she admires so much” because of the courage the 34-year-old demonstrated on behalf of so many survivors.
In her first public statement since September, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford presents Sports Illustrated’s Inspiration of the Year Award to Rachael Denhollander https://t.co/2lBOB9nVDk pic.twitter.com/AjRYVYfOmS
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 12, 2018
“A woman who suffered abuse as a vulnerable teenage athlete, who found the courage to talk publicly to stop the abuse of others,” Ford said about Denhollander in the video. “Her courage inspired other survivors to end their silence. And we all know the result.”
That result includes the federal lawsuit that Denhollander filed against Nassar, the more than 300 other women and girls who have said they were sexually assaulted by the former doctor, and ultimately his sentence of up to 175 years in a Michigan state prison for criminal sexual assault.
“Rachel Denhollander, I am in awe of you, and I will always be inspired by you,” Ford continued. “In stepping forward, you took a huge risk and you galvanized future generations to come forward, even when the odds are seemingly stacked against them.”
For Ford, the odds were stacked against her when she publicly alleged that then-Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982. She went on to speak against him in a hearing in front of a congressional committee while he was being considered for the Supreme Court, an appointment he ultimately received.
Many are reacting negatively to Sports Illustrated‘s decision to get political by choosing to have Ford present the award.
Why is the poster girl for fake sexual assault allegations giving out an award for Sports Illustrated?
— John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn) December 12, 2018
Who’s giving out the next award? Michael Avenatti?
— SPDR (@WammuelRussell) December 12, 2018
And she has what to do with sports exactly?
— Kevin Culpepper (@KevinCulpepper1) December 12, 2018
Probably not the best thing to do for a subscription-based sports company to take a political stance… Just here for the comments. This ain’t it chief 😐 pic.twitter.com/U3oSJeT2bQ
— Sean Bennett (@Broadcaster005) December 12, 2018
Not surprised. I mean, they did give a man a award meant for women. So why not give “I can’t remember the details but it happened” the opportunity to announce an award on courage. What a joke.
— Tvan4 (@tevisv) December 12, 2018
However, Ford’s overall message is still encouraging people to find the courage to come forward against abusers, regardless of the fallout.
“The lasting lesson is that we all have the power to create real change and we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by the acts of others,” she said.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• When sexual assault becomes dinner conversation: A #MeToo holiday survival guide
• Christine Blasey Ford is still getting death threats. What’s the long-term fallout for survivors?
• Irish women launch #ThisIsNotConsent underwear campaign to protest victim-blaming