USA Gymnastics cannot get out of its own way.
In an attempt to move on from years and years of negligent leadership and the sexual abuse scandal that resulted from it, USAG has cleaned house. On Friday, it hired its third CEO in less than a year, Mary Bono, on an interim basis.
And, well, it took less than 24 hours for fans to dig up an extremely problematic tweet sent by Bono only a month ago:
Playing in a charity golf tournament raising money for our nation’s Special Forces operators and their families. Unfortunately had these shoes in my bag. Luckily I had a marker in my bag too…. pic.twitter.com/i6J80dAYJP
— Mary Bono (@MaryBonoUSA) September 7, 2018
Why Bono’s tweet was problematic
The context: Just days before the tweet, Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of a 30th anniversary “Just Do It” advertising campaign. In the aftermath, some Nike customers – individuals and institutions – decided to boycott the sportswear company. And Bono sure appears to have been one of them.
She even retweeted a quote-tweet of her own tweet with the hashtag #BoycottNike:
But no matter the motive, this is an anti-Nike tweet. And that’s problematic. Especially for USA Gymnastics’ biggest star, Simone Biles, who is sponsored by Nike.
Simone Biles’ reaction
Biles called out Bono with a quote-tweet shortly after Bono’s old tweet began to resurface:
don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything https://t.co/cYQizcjywn
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) October 13, 2018
Oh, and not only that … USA Gymnastics’ brand is as toxic right now as any in sports. Not many sponsors want to be affiliated with it. And the new president sure isn’t helping in that regard so far.
USA Gymnastics’ disastrous attempts to move on from scandal
USAG has been torn down by one of the biggest scandals in recent American sports history. And its attempts to recover from it, in so many ways, have been horrendous.
Bono’s appointment already looks like a boneheaded move, but it certainly wouldn’t be the only one USAG has made recently. Nine month ago, it hired Kerry Perry to lead the reclamation project. Her tenure as CEO and president ended in disgrace, after nine months, shortly after she hired Mary Lee Tracy as elite development coordinator.
Tracy, a longtime insider, was forced out after just three days on the job. She had initially supported Larry Nassar in the wake of sexual abuse allegations. Aly Raisman – another one of USAG’s biggest names, a Nassar abuse survivor, and a courageous critic of the establishment – blasted USAG’s decision. So did many others.
In short, the organization has been hamstrung by a long chain of incompetence. And now it has a CEO who appeared to publicly shun one of the most powerful institutions in sport, simply because that company supports an athlete who sacrificed his career to raise awareness for a cause bigger than himself.
Bono issued a response to Biles’ criticism Saturday night, saying that she regretted her previous tweet and did indeed respect everyone’s views as well as their right to express them.
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.
— Mary Bono (@MaryBonoUSA) October 14, 2018
The former California congresswoman went on to say that her previous words did not reflect on how she would approach building an “open, safe and positive environment” with USA gymnastics.
She could’ve left it at that instead of continuing to draw attention to her previous tweet. But she didn’t.
An hour later, she simultaneously decided to take down her tweet while acknowledging that it would likely live on in internet archives. She explained that it was an attempt to shift the focus onto the future of USA gymnastics.
Hey all, I know the Tweet will live on but have taken it down to move the focus to all I hope to accomplish on behalf of a great sport & those who are dedicated to it
— Mary Bono (@MaryBonoUSA) October 14, 2018
“I look forward to telling my gymnastics story, my vision for the future of the sport and why I wanted the job.” Bono added.
USA Gymnastics responds
Two days after it’s star athlete criticized Bono, USA gymnastics has issued its own statement on the interim president.
Nancy Armour reported that while the board did review Bono’s background and social media activity, it somehow missed her tweet about Nike from just last month. The board said it was an oversight on their part
Here’s statement from @USAGym board on @MaryBonoUSA hiring and the Tweet. Leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For starters, how an organization that had just parted ways with someone over her social media posts did not thoroughly vet Bono’s accounts. pic.twitter.com/W1OzSvrfkD
— Nancy Armour (@nrarmour) October 15, 2018
They offered their support for Bono, and her “ability to help us move forward in the interim period”, after she indicated that she regretted the post.
“We’re committed to an inclusive, safe and positive culture for out sport.” USA gymnastics said.
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