USA Gymnastics CEO Mary Bono resigned her position Tuesday, after meeting criticism over her opposition to Nike and its “Just Do It” ads featuring anthem protester Colin Kaepernick.
Bono posted several social media posts critical of Nike and Colin Kaepernick in the weeks before she was elevated to interim CEO of USA Gymnastic, but despite the fact that the posts were made before she took over the organization critics slammed her for attacking a sponsor, not to mention for speaking a conservative position, the Hill reported.
One outspoken critic was former Olympic gymnast Simon Biles, who took to Twitter to attack Bono.
“*Mouth drop*,” Biles wrote on October 13. “Don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter USA gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.”
don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything https://t.co/cYQizcjywn
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) October 13, 2018
Biles was one of the victims who came forward to accuse former USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar, of sexual misconduct.
Bono, a former California Republican Congresswoman, soon said that she regretted the posts, but insisted that her opinion of Kaepernick’s actions would never get in the way of how she would lead the organization.
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.
— Mary Bono (@MaryBonoUSA) October 14, 2018
Despite those reassurances, the pressure grew until Bono decided to step down. She did not, however, apologize for having an opinion about Kaepernick. Indeed, she stood up for her own right to free political speech.
In an open letter to the gymnastics community, Bono defended her right to speak out saying, “With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel. I exercised mine.”
Mary Bono is OUT as @USAGym interim president and CEO. In exit stmt, she defends her tweet marking out @Nike logo on her sneakers: “With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel. I exercised mine” pic.twitter.com/qS0uaGdXyl
— Sarah Boxer (@Sarah_Boxer) October 16, 2018
“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 her public statement.
“With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his First Amendment right to kneel. I exercised mine,” Bono said. “I regret that at the time I didn’t better clarify my feelings. That one tweet has been made the litmus test of my reputation over almost two decades of public service.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.