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Mary Bono resigns as USA Gymnastics president, addresses Nike tweet

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Mary Bono resigned as USA Gymnastics interim CEO and president Monday, four days after being appointed to 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 said in a statement, first reported by CNN. “My withdrawal comes in the wake of personal attacks that, left undefended, would have made my leading USAG a liability for the organization.”

USA Gymnastics later confirmed, saying, “despite her commitment to the sport of gymnastics and helping the organization move forward, we believe this is in the best interest of the organization.”

Bono, who replaced Kerry Perry, who resigned in September, received criticism for a September photo of herself drawing over a Nike logo on a golf shoe tweeted from her account shortly after Nike debuted its advertising campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Notably, Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles tweeted, “*mouth drop* don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.” Nike is one of Biles’ sponsors.

Biles is among the more than 200 women who have come forward over the last two years claiming they were sexually abused by former team doctor Larry Nassar under the guise of treatment. Biles was critical of Perry for not being vocal enough in support of the survivors.

Bono deleted her tweet about five hours later, saying she regretted the post and respects “everyone’s views & fundamental right to express them.”

“With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel,” the 57-year-old Bono said in Tuesday’s statement. “I exercised mine: to mark over 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.’ It was 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. I remain as dedicated as ever to the sport of gymnastics and its devotees. I hope USAG will do all it can to support them.”

Bono, a former Republican congresswoman and youth gymnast, also received backlash from the gymnastics community for working with Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, which advised USA Gymnastics when gymnasts reported Nassar sexual abuse, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“My teammates & I reported Nassar’s abuse to USAG in 2015,” was tweeted from Olympic champion Aly Raisman‘s account 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?”

Bono said she “proudly” stood behind her body of work at Faegre Baker Daniels, “and appreciated how much the law firm supported my devoting considerable time to the cause of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery,” according to the statement.

“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,” Bono said in her statement. “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 spent 15 years as a U.S. Representative from Southern California from 1998-2013. She won her first term in a special election running as a Republican to fill the vacancy left by the death of her husband, former pop star and lawmaker Sonny Bono.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

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