USA Gymnastics names ex-NBA VP Li Li Leung as its 4th CEO in 23 months

USA Gymnastics has named Li Li Leung as its new CEO, and she’ll be charged with repairing the trust between the organization and its gymnasts. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
USA Gymnastics has named Li Li Leung as its new CEO, and she’ll be charged with repairing the trust between the organization and its gymnasts. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

USA Gymnastics is hoping its CEO carousel is closing down for the foreseeable future. The beleaguered organization announced on Tuesday that it had named Li Li Leung as its new CEO, the fourth in less than two years.

Leung, a former gymnast, comes to USA Gymnastics from the NBA, where she was vice president of global partnerships since February 2015. She was charged with growing the NBA’s corporate sponsors. At USAG, she’s following three disastrous CEOs: Steve Penny, who resigned in March 2017 as he was being accused of negligence and complicity in the Larry Nassar scandal; Kerry Perry, who resigned in September 2018 after less than 10 months of poor PR decisions; and Mary Bono, who resigned in October 2018 after just four days on the job following a poorly received Nike/Colin Kaepernick tweet.

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During a conference call on Tuesday, Leung discussed why she decided to take the top job with the embattled organization. Via USA Today:

“I was in a great position at the NBA and I wasn’t looking to leave. Gymnastics has been a huge part of my life and, to this day, I’m still embedded in this sport. It really broke my heart to see where the sport was. It compelled me to step forward. We can do better for the community and the sport.”

Leung’s not stepping into an easy situation. USAG is dealing with the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, which has decimated the organization. It’s dealing with a massive loss of trust from young gymnasts (and parents) around the country, as well as numerous lawsuits regarding its role in the scandal. It filed for bankruptcy in December, and all of its sponsors are gone. The U.S. Olympic Committee took the first step toward decertifying USAG back in November, but USA Today reported that Leung has already spoken to USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland, and they’re both committed to resolving the decertification.

This could be a fresh beginning for USA Gymnastics. Leung competed for USAG as a teenager, and coached gymnastics in college. She has no association with the Nassar scandal or with any of the three previous CEOs. And she comes from the NBA, one of the more forward-thinking sports leagues. Leung has a big job ahead of her, but it seems like there’s nowhere to go but up.

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