Amid Criticism, USA Gymnastics Interim CEO Steps Down After Five Days

USA Gymnastics interim CEO Mary Bono stepped down today amid heavy criticism from athletes, just five days after she was named CEO of the gymnastics federation.

The Larry Nassar case has hit gymnastics especially hard, but Bono’s departure is just part of a wave of scrutiny and criticism sporting federations have faced on issues of athlete safety and athlete feedback.

USA Gymnastics had been led by Steve Penny for almost 12 years, until he was forced to resign under heavy criticism from gymnasts and others that USA Gymnastics had ignored the abuse of athletes. Kerry Perry took over the position in December of 2017, but only had the job for about ten months. Perry took criticism for how she handled the ongoing athlete safety scandal within the sport, and the last straw came when the organization tried to hire Mary Lee Tracy to “an elite position,” per the New York Times. Tracy had previously defended Nassar, the former doctor with the national gymnastics team who was sentenced to multiple life sentences for sexually abusing athletes. Per the Times, the U.S. Olympic Committee forced Perry to resign.

Bono, a former Republican Congresswoman, was named the new interim CEO on Friday. But she faced almost immediate backlash from gymnasts, including Olympian Simone BilesPer USA Today, an old tweet resurfaced in which Bono blacked out the white Nike logo on her golf shoes in an apparent protest of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick famously knelt during the playing of the national anthem to protest what he considered police brutality against minority races. Kaepernick was recently made the face of Nike’s new ad campaign, leading many who disagreed with the protest to publicly criticize Nike.

Biles quoted the tweet over the weekend with critical commentary: “*mouth drop*,” she wrote. “don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything”

Biles is also sponsored by Nike. USA Gymnastics has struggled to find an apparel sponsor since Under Armour broke off its connection to the federation in the wake of the Nassar scandal. Nike had been considered a potential replacement.

Bono’s tweet has since been deleted, and she tweeted saying: “I regret the post and respect everyone’s views & fundamental right to express them. This doesn’t reflect how I will approach my position @USAGym I will do everything I can to help build, w/ the community, an open, safe & positive environment.”

Bono tweeted a lengthy statement this afternoon addressing her resignation. She said her withdrawal from the organization “comes in the wake of personal attacks that, left undefended, would have made my leading the USAG a liability for the organization.”

USA Today also reports that Bono took criticism from Olympian Aly Raisman, one of the highest profile abuse survivors in the Nassar case. Raisman and her attorney criticized Bono for her association with a law firm called Faegre Baker Daniels. Earlier reports alleged that Faegre Baker Daniels had helped USA Gymnastics provide “false excuses” as to why Nassar was absent from major events in 2015, rather than admitting that Nassar was under investigation for sexual abuse. USA Today reports that Bono had previous worked on “legislative strategies and policies” for the firm, but wasn’t affiliated with the office that worked with USA Gymnastics.

Many major Olympic sporting federations in the United States have had turnover in leadership. Former USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus faced years of heavy criticism for the federation’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against coaches before resigning in 2017. Tim Hinchey has been CEO of the organization since July of 2017.

The USOC released the following statement about Bono’s resignation:

“We learned today that the interim CEO of USA Gymnastics, Mary Bono, resigned from her position. While the situation is unfortunate, we know that USA Gymnastics remains dedicated to the process of finding a new and permanent CEO. The USOC is committed to working hard with the USAG board to find the right leader who can build gymnastics up to the world-class organization we know that it can and should be. Both the USOC staff and myself will continue to work closely with USAG in both the short and long term as they search for a new leader. The well-being of Team USA athletes is our top priority as we manage this process.”

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Mark Rauterkus
3 years ago

Interesting. Thanks for sharing. Keep us posted on these issues throughout the various Olympic, in the states and elsewhere.

Snarky
3 years ago

What the heck is wrong with that Board. How much vetting did they do? Is there a brain among them?

Doitfordale
3 years ago

It was right for her to step down. If she doesn’t have the backbone to stand up for herself against a tweet from Simone Biles then how can she lead USA Gymnastics?

SwimPop
3 years ago

The woman still doesn’t get it. Good riddens.

Mikeh
3 years ago

Her opinion of Kaepernick is her right to express, and does not reflect USA Gymnastics. Why fire someone over something like that? She probably would have been an effective leader. If every organization enforced an ideological litmus test, they will miss out on excellent leaders.

SwimPop
Reply to  Mikeh
3 years ago

Effective leaders don’t take to twitter to exercise their right to express themselves.

W3T
Reply to  Mikeh
3 years ago

Biles is the Michael Phelps of gymnastics. As the sport’s biggest star, her opinion is valuable and should be taken seriously. Not listening to the athletes is what got USAG into the mess that they are in at the moment.

That aside, Bono’s tweet jeopardized the potential for USAG to recruit Nike as their main gear sponsor, especially if USAG kept her around. Imagine if Hinchey had disparaging posts about Arena, Speedo, or TYR on his social media. It would endanger the financial viability of the organization. She never should have taken that position in the first place, and it was absolutely the right thing for her to be removed.

Finally, her connections to the law firm that… Read more »

2 Cents
Reply to  Mikeh
3 years ago

I was under the impression that the main reason was her connection to the law firm or connection to representing US Gymnastics when they defended them selves about how much they enabled Nassar. In other words, hiring her was not exactly “cleaning house”… it was just hiring from within and the fact that it would be more of the same leadership as before. They (the athletes) needed and wanted a fresh start and a leadership they could trust in, not someone who defended the actions (enabling) of US Gymnastics in court. The tweet, was what made the headlines because, well…yeah, that is the “sexy” story and what everyone pays attention to, however in this case I do not think it… Read more »

JRKay
3 years ago

Cool story! Does the gymnastics fan site run stories about swimming?

Caeleb Dressel Will Get 9 Golds in Tokyo
Reply to  JRKay
3 years ago

It was a question. Chill.

joe bagodonuts
Reply to  JRKay
3 years ago

JRKAY – You, Sir/Ma’am (if I can say that), are not “woke”!

Frequent flyer
Reply to  JRKay
3 years ago

Yes they do, as I read both.

bobo gigi
3 years ago

Always the same giant hypocrisy from these right-wing people who criticize Mr Kaepernick. 😆 They talk about patriotism, the flag and the military to hide their own racism. Sorry guys but Kaepernick is 10000 times more patriotic than you. Iraq war, remember? You lie to launch that crazy war. You have sent thousands of young soldiers there for nothing. Many of them will die. Great job. Great patriotism. It costed trillions of dollars which should have used instead to improve the lives of American people. Great job. Great patriotism. You have put the fire in the Middle East. It created ISIS which made terrorist attacks against Americans. Great job. Great patriotism. Tax cuts for the rich, tax heavens, tax fraud,… Read more »

gator
Reply to  bobo gigi
3 years ago

Mr. Bobo Gigi,

With the objectives you’ve explained fully deployed there, why is the economy in France doing so poorly? Maybe capitalism is just, well, better, yes? Look at the US economy recently for example. Heck, its so good that even Mr. Kaepernick was able to get a job (with Nike). He unfortunately wasn’t good enough to make an NFL team as QB (its very hard to do that you know), so he acted out against the American flag (after he got benched) and then justified it in very unusual explanations with the encouragement of his agents (publicity to keep revenue coming). Such a silly thing! Maybe you should be less extreme – Roy Moore ? really? Maybe USA… Read more »

Yozhik
Reply to  bobo gigi
3 years ago

It’s strange to hear so many words about true patriotism from the person who isn’t a patriot of his own country. At least your comments about French swimmers let me think so. Read comments of Hungarian or Brazilian or English or Russian or Chinese or Australian or whoever fans but not yours ones to understand what an unconditional love of sports fans is.
On the other hand why am I surprised? Rule of thumb: the more noble words are used in someone’s rhetoric the more evil or corrupt intentions are.

NothingsFair
Reply to  bobo gigi
3 years ago

oh yeah great job generalizing an entire group. that doesn’t make you sound the same as those right wing fanatics at ALL.

SUM Ting Wong
3 years ago

At a charity event For US Special Forces. The problem.is not Mary , not Nike , not Colin , not Simone but why do they need charity at all? It is disgusting with a national 700 billion military budget. . If they have to do the US’s dirty work at least pay them better & treat their damaged bodies & minds .
Besides that US gym has passed on . Bury it .

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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