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USA Gymnastics: A Culture of Controversy

Larry Nassar case: USA Gymnastics doctor ‘abused 265 girls’”

“The sex abuse scandal surrounding USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, explained”

“Entire Board of USA Gymnastics to Resign”

Just 10 months ago, headlines such as the ones above plastered the front of newspapers and computer screens. USA Gymnastics was in the midst of a colossal sex scandal, legal ramifications and a complete overhaul.

Former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels conducted an independent review on the organization. According to Daniels, USA Gymnastics needed to undergo a “complete cultural change.”

Fast forward to this month and USA Gymnastics failed to listen to Daniels and descended right back into a culture of controversy and discourse. USA Gymnastics hired former congresswoman Mary Bono as their interim CEO and president Oct. 12.

Before this position, Bono served as a U.S. Representative for California from 1998-2013 and, more recently, worked at a consulting firm in Washington D.C. She brings with her some previous experience in gymnastics, as she trained with several clubs for a decade in her youth. However, Bono also brings strong political views with her into this position.

After Nike released Colin Kaepernick as the face of their #JustDoIt Campaign Sept. 5, Bono tweeted her abhorrence for the brand a month before being hired by USA Gymnastics, but nothing ever goes unnoticed on the internet.

Hours after her appointment was publicly announced, USA gymnast, five-time Olympic medalist and Nike-sponsored athlete Simone Biles said she disagreed with the hiring in a tweet.

How much does Biles’s opinion influence the decision of the USA gymnastics organization?

Once Biles posted about not wanting to attend training camps at Karolyi Ranch, a place where her and other teammates were sexually abused by Nassar, USA Gymnastics immediately cancelled the camps.

As Dvora Meyers, writer for Deadspin said, “Bono may be the new interim president and CEO of the organization but Biles is, without a doubt, the most important figure in USA Gymnastics.”

Nevertheless, USA Gymnastics stood by their choice. According to USA Gymnastics board chairman Karen Golz,“Mary [Bono] is passionate about the sport, and having her as our interim president and CEO will move the organization forward.”

Bono herself handled the backlash in an appropriate, respectful manner. She deleted the initial tweet and apologized for her thoughtlessness in posting it through three apology tweets.

However, Bono’s “regret” fails to substitute the controversy and problematic image she has brought to USA Gymnastics. No matter the severity of political comments, USA Gymnastics cannot rebuild and rebrand without a clean slate. Furthermore, Bono handled her dislike of Nike through a rash post on social media. Is this an insight into how she would handle situations for the USA Gymnastics organization?

When the board searched for candidates, it appears evident they failed to examine each one’s social media history. Bono’s poor judgement aside, how was she hired in the first place? If the board desired to birth a true change within their culture, they should have examined every aspect of their candidates’ profiles. Because they neglected to investigate Bono thoroughly, USA Gymnastics did not distance their corporation from public dissension.

As a result, the question here is not whether politics should matter when hiring a professional, but rather if an organization can function successfully if politics are not considered.

In this case, I think USA Gymnastics welcomes more problems than solutions with this hiring.

It came as no surprise to me when I opened my computer to begin writing this editorial and a new headline flashed across my screen: “USA Gymnastics’ interim president Mary Bono resignsafter 4 days.”

Four days. She lasted in office only four days.

A board of directors, who four days ago hired her and supported her, now goes back on their comments. In a statement following her resignation, they said, “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 announced her resignation in a public letter Oct. 16. In the letter, she expressed regret for not having the opportunity to lead the organization. She referenced exercising her first amendment rights when expressing her opinion. Additionally, she clarified her motive behind the Nike-bashing tweet, claiming “it was an emotional reaction to the sponsor’s use of that phrase, ‘[believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything].’”

She also said, “that one tweet has now been made the litmus test of my reputation over almost two decades of public service.

Yes Mary Bono, you have the right to tweet what you want. No one is withholding your first amendment rights. However, in the public sphere, you must realize your tweets hold greater power and therefore, greater scrutiny.

PSA to anyone trying to become the CEO of a national corporation: maybe check your Twitter history first.

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