Mary Bono resigned as interim CEO and president of USA Gymnastics Tuesday amid criticism over a tweet in protest of Nike's "Just Do It" campaign. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Former gymnast and congresswoman Mary Bono resigned as interim CEO and president of USA Gymnastics on Tuesday.
Bono announced her resignation five days after she was appointed amid pressure and concern from USA gymnasts -- including Olympians Simone Biles and Aly Raisman -- over a since-deleted tweet that depicted Bono marking over the Nike logo on a pair of shoes after the company made Colin Kaepernick the face of its "Just Do It" campaign.
"My withdrawal comes in the wake of personal attacks that, left undefended, would have made my leading USAG a liability for the organization," Bono wrote in a statement regarding her resignation.
Biles shared the Nike tweet with the comment "*mouth drop* don't worry, it's not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything."
After further criticism Bono deleted the tweet and issued an apology on Twitter.
"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," she wrote.
In her resignation letter, Bono said the photo depicted her exercising her First Amendment right in opposition of the Nike campaign featuring the phrase "believing in something even if it means sacrificing everything," in the same way that Kaepernick exercised his right to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and mistreatment by police in America while a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
She added the event was a golf tournament for families whose loved ones died while in the armed services. They "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," Bono wrote.
Raisman also tweeted about concerns regarding the idea that Bono's law firm, Faegre Baker Daniels, allegedly had a role in enabling the sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.
"My teammates & I reported Nassar's abuse to USAG in 2015. We now know [the U.S. Olympic Committee] & 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?" she wrote.
The USA Gymnastics board of directors issued a statement accepting Bono's resignation, adding they will continue a search for a permanent president and CEO.
"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," the board said. "We, as a board, are committed to taking action when we believe a change of course is necessary and to being responsive to our gymnastics community."
Bono's resignation comes after former CEO Kerry Perry resigned last month amid criticism that she did not do enough to address Nassar's abuse or give survivors a voice in the organization.
Nassar was accused of sexually assaulting more than 260 women and girls and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years on seven separate counts of criminal sexual conduct, a first-degree felony.