McKayla Maroney Says She Hated the Way the Media Portrayed Her After Abuse
Maroney is comparing her experience to Britney Spears' and supporting the pop star.
In 2016, retired gymnast Rachael Denhollander was the first woman to formally accuse former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. Over the next couple of years, more than 360 gymnasts accused Nassar of sexual abuse, including all five of the athletes on the 2012 women's Olympic gymnastics team. While some have been outspoken about their experience, others, like McKayla Maroney, have tried to move on quietly after coming forward. Recently, however, in a statement in support of Britney Spears, Maroney decided to candidly discuss her abuse at the hands of Nassar, the toll it took on her, and her frustration with how the media portrayed her. To see what Maroney had to say about how her experience connects with the #FreeBritney movement in a new Instagram post, read on.
McKayla Maroney slammed the media's role in both Britney Spears' and her own suffering.
On July 26, Maroney, now 25 years old, spoke out about her abuse at the hands of Nassar on Instagram, three years after she first came forward. "From my experience, speaking up about abuse is extremely exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally," the Olympic gymnast wrote on Instagram. She went on to discuss the role the media has played in her life since. After coming forward about her abuse during an interview with Today in 2018, Maroney said, "I hated the depressing tone my life took on, and how the media portrayed me." She added that she "never wanted to be seen as a victim" but just wanted Nassar in jail and the people who allowed the abuse to go on to be held accountable for their actions.
Maroney's statement comes as the women's gymnastics team competes at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and as the world and legal system continues to reassess Spears' conservatorship, which has had her father and other appointed figures in control of her financially and physically for years. In the post, Maroney reflects on the commonalities between her and Spears' experiences, and she sports a Spears' shirt in the accompanying photos. "Britney's story resonates with me so much because just like Britney, I also had to 'fake it till you make it' to survive my 2012 Olympics," Maroney revealed.
Maroney explained that the Framing Britney Spears documentary, which brought the issues with Spears' conservatorship to light in early 2021, shows that "the media is hugely to blame" for her suffering. "To this day, media bullies celebrities and athletes with dramatic clickbait stories and false reports for their benefit. Not caring at all how it affects the person or family's life," wrote Maroney. She added that "it's time to hold the media accountable for the damage they create."
Maroney also said she had "abuse coming at [her] from many angles" during the 2012 Olympics.
Like Spears, Maroney wrote that at the 2012 Olympics, she was "was just trying to accomplish [her] dream, but," she added: "I had abuse coming at me from many angles that I didn't understand how to process at 15. I had to suppress it, and I had to minimize it, just to get through the day."
In 2018, when she first talked about the abuse, Maroney said Nassar began abusing her at the age of 13 and hundreds of times following that. Later that year, Maroney, along with more than 150 other victims, wrote impact statements that were read to him before he was sentenced. "It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver medal," Maroney wrote in her statement.
She also described one especially traumatizing moment for her. "For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He'd given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a 'treatment.' I thought I was going to die that night," wrote Maroney.
But dwelling on her abuse felt "extremely wrong," she wrote.
In her Instagram post, Maroney expressed that she felt acknowledging and discussing this darker part of her life veered from her usual character. "If you know me or have been following me, you probably have picked up that I'm naturally just a positive, bubbly person, who leans more towards optimism and having faith because that's what makes me happy," wrote Maroney. "So calling out abusers, and dwelling on all the dark negative pieces of my past felt extremely wrong for me."
Maroney added that although she wanted to "move on" and return to being her usual self, she knew she had to push herself to speak out against Nassar. "I needed to learn the power of my voice, boundaries, and when to be resilient," she wrote.
Maroney compared the people controlling Spears to the people who allowed abuse to occur within elite gymnastics.
The former gymnast also commended Spears for speaking out. "She deserves to spend the rest of her life healing in peace or doing whatever she wants," Maroney wrote on Instagram.
She then drew a comparison between the people controlling Spears' life and those whole allowed abuse within elite gymnastics to persist. "The people who control her are criminals, and abusers, just like USA gymnastics, and the USOC [United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee] used me and their athletes for money but didn't care to protect us," she concluded, adding the hashtag #FreeBritney.