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USA Gymnastics CEO resigns after anti-Nike, anti-Kaepernick tweet spurs backlash

USA Gymnastics CEO Mary Bono resigned after criticism from many, including Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, for an anti-Nike tweet. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images for WICT)

USA Gymnastics CEO Mary Bono resigned Tuesday in response to strong backlash against a social media post disparaging Nike for its ad campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, according to The Hill.

Bono posted an image of her crossing out the Nike symbol on her shoe, protesting the collaboration with the controversial former football player and social justice activist. In her resignation statement, Bono said her post was triggered by the ad's use of the phrase "sacrifice 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. "That one tweet has now been made a litmus test of my reputation over almost two decades of public service."

Bono had barely started the position; USA Gymnastics announced her as interim CEO on Friday.

What's the story?

Bono posted the tweet in September, after the Kaepernick ad campaign was announced and before Bono became interim CEO of USA Gymnastics.

The post, now deleted, gained widespread attention after Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles retweeted it to express her disapproval.

"Don't worry, it's not like we needed a smarter USA Gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything," Biles wrote Saturday.

The ensuing backlash caused Bono to apologize Sunday.

"I regret the post and respect everyone's views and fundamental right to express them," Bono wrote. "This doesn't reflect how I will approach my position at USA Gymnastics. I will do everything I can to help build, with the community, an open, safe and positive environment."

Defending her freedom of speech

Bono, in her resignation statement, maintained that she was simply expressing her First Amendment right just like Kaepernick.

"With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his First Amendment right to kneel," Bono wrote. "I exercised mine: to mark over on my own golf shoes, the logo of a 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.'"

Bono was a Republican U.S. representative in California from 1998-2013. She first won the seat by way of special election after her husband, Sonny Bono, died.

The previous USA Gymnastics CEO, Kerry Perry, resigned in September in the fallout from the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal that devastated the program and exposed the failures of many who were in authority during the years Nassar worked with gymnasts.

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