Former congresswoman Mary Bono announced Tuesday that she has resigned as interim president and chief executive officer of USA Gymnastics after a tenure of four days.
Bono’s selection had been immediately criticized by several high-profile gymnasts, including Olympic gold-medal winners Simone Biles and Aly Raisman.
Raisman questioned Bono’s association with law firm Faegre Baker Daniels — which advised USA Gymnastics during the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
“Why hire someone associated with the firm that helped cover up our abuse?” Raisman asked.
Biles took issue with Bono’s response to Nike’s advertising campaign featuring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Bono, who was appointed to her new roles on Friday, posted a photo of herself blacking out a Nike logo on a golf shoe. In response, Biles tweeted: “*mouth drop* … don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.”
In a statement announcing her resignation, Bono said: “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. … My withdrawal comes in the wake of personal attacks that, left undefended, would have made my leading USAG a liability for the organization.”
Bono said in her statement she proudly stood behind her work at Faegre Baker Daniels.
As to Kaepernick, Bono said, “He nationally exercised his First Amendment right to kneel, I exercised mine.” She said her response stemmed from her connection to those who lost a member of the armed services. She said she had lost her brother-in-law, a Navy SEAL, and she took issue with the “sacrificing everything” part of the Nike-Kaepernick campaign. “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 did not better clarify things.”
Bono was to be a stopgap while USA Gymnastics searched for a permanent successor to Kerry Perry, who resigned under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee in September after spending nine months on the job.
Bono spent 15 years as a U.S. representative from Southern California from 1998 to 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. Mary Bono most recently worked at a consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
Bono, 57, has a background in gymnastics. She trained at several clubs for a decade.