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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