USA Gymnastics Head Out After Less Than A Week As Interim President

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Newly appointed interim president and CEO of USA Gymnastics Mary Bono announced she’s resigning from the position after only five days in the role. 

“It is with profound regret, coupled with a deep love for the sport of gymnastics and respect for those who aspire to be great gymnasts, that I today tendered my resignation as the Interim CEO of USA Gymnastics,” Bono wrote in a statement published to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.

Bono, a former gymnast and Republican congresswoman from California, wrote in her resignation that she had hoped to have had a positive impact on USA Gymnastics, an organization that has been floundering since former team trainer Larry Nassar was accused of sexual abuse by hundreds of athletes. 

“My regret is that I would have brought to the organization, the angst and anger of my own story: a young aspiring gymnast who witnessed first-hand the assaulting behavior of a coach; watched peers who acquiesced in it move ahead while those who didn’t were left behind, and myself stayed silent — perhaps the norm then, but very troubling to me to this day,” she wrote.

USA Gymnastics appointed Bono on Friday in hopes of course-correcting the organization in the wake of the Nassar scandal.

“I would have brought a fire in the belly to ensure that no one as taken with gymnastics as I was at that age, should have to choose between abuse and ambition, or between properly speaking out and promoting personal success,” Bono added.  

The day after her new role was announced, Bono came under fire for posting a photo on Twitter of her covering the Nike logo on her golf shoes. The photo suggested that Bono was protesting the sportswear company’s move to partner with Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL player who has kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Olympian Simone Biles called out Bono on Twitter, writing: “Mouth drop. Don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter USA Gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.” 

Bono since deleted the tweet and apologized. She specifically responded to the Kaepernick debacle, writing in her resignation: 

With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel. I exercised mine: to mark over on my own golf shoes, the logo of the company sponsoring him for “believing in something even if it means sacrificing everything” — while at a tournament for families who have lost a member of the armed services (including my brother-in-law, a Navy SEAL) who literally “sacrificed everything.” I twas an emotional reaction to the sponsor’s use of that phrase that caused me to tweet, and I regret that at the time I didn’t better clarify my feelings. That one tweet has now been made the litmus test of my reputation over almost two decades of public service.

Bono’s resignation also comes in the wake of harsh criticism from multiple gymnasts who were sexually abused by Nassar, who’s currently serving a life sentence on child sexual abuse and child pornography charges.

Many Nassar survivors, including Olympian Aly Raisman, were upset with Bono’s appointment and pointed out that the former Republican congresswoman from California worked for Faegre Baker Daniels, which represented USA Gymnastics when investigations into Nassar began in 2015. Some Nassar survivors claimed Faegre Baker Daniels helped cover up Nassar’s abuse while the firm was employed by USA Gymnastics. 

“My teammates and I reported Nassar’s abuse to USAG in 2015,” Raisman tweeted on Monday. “We now know USOC & lawyers at Faegre Baker Daniels (Mary Bono’s firm) were also told then, yet Nassar continued to abuse children for 13 months!? Why hire someone associated with the firm that helped cover up our abuse?” 

Kaylee Lorincz, another Nassar survivor, also criticized Bono’s appointment on Twitter, writing on Sunday: “You owe me an explanation of why you and your firm allowed Larry to abuse me in 2016 after you were well aware that he was abusing little girls.” 

Bono responded to the criticism of her work at the law firm specifically in her resignation statement. 

“I proudly stand behind my body of work at Faegre Baker Daniels,” she wrote. “And [I] appreciated how much the law firm supported my devoting considerable time to the cause of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.” 

USA Gymnastics’ board of directors told HuffPost in a statement that it had accepted Bono’s resignation. 

“While we continue the search for a permanent president and CEO and are currently seeking input from key stakeholders on that search, we remain steadfast in our efforts to fundamentally transform the organization at all levels to ensure athlete safety and well-being is at the heart of everything we do,” the statement read, in part. 

Raisman reacted to Bono’s resignation in a series of tweets Tuesday night. 

“The Olympic family fails us again. Another poor hire + familiar statements,” she tweeted.

“Ms. Bono, I’m truly sorry for what you experienced in the sport,” Raisman continued in a separate tweet, referring to Bono’s remarks about experiencing “assaulting behavior” from a gymnastics coach. “Please know, my objection to your hiring was not personal. The stakes are high in our sport right now, & it’s essential new leadership be disconnected from the influences that allowed these terrible things to happen.”

Sarah Klein, the first known gymnast to be abused by Nassar, called for the de-certification of USA Gymnastics in the wake of Bono’s resignation. 

“USAG made a mockery of our abuse, yet again, by the hiring of Ms. Bono,” Klein said.

“We are not surprised by the hiring of Ms. Bono, or by her 1.5 day tenure as CEO of USAG. But this merry-go-round must stop now,” she continued. “USAG has proven incapable of honesty or anything approaching integrity or transparency. They are not worthy of certification, and we look to Congress to now act. We have been through enough. USAG must be de-certified.”

Bono took over as interim president and CEO from Kerry Perry, who resigned in September after nine months in the role. Prior to Perry, Steve Penny had filled the role for over a decade until he was forced to resign last year following complaints that he was too slow to address the Nassar sexual abuse complaints. 

This article has been updated to include the statement from USA Gymnastics’ board of directors and gymnasts’ reactions to Bono’s resignation. 

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