Former Congresswoman Mary Bono, hired as interim president and CEO of USA Gymnastics last week, has resigned, the organization announced Tuesday.
The departure followed calls for her to step down following a disparaging tweet about Nike in the wake of its campaign with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“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 USA Gymnastics Board of Directors said in a statement.
The organization announced Bono’s hire amid a search for a permanent successor to Kerry Perry, who spent nine months with USA Gymnastics before resigning amid pressure from the United States Olympic Committee.
Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland, in a statement obtained by Fox News, called the situation “unfortunate,” but said USOC “know[s] that USA Gymnastics remains dedicated to the process of finding a new and permanent CEO.”
Bono, 57, quickly came under fire after she was named as USA Gymnastic’s interim head leadership because of a tweet she posted last month about Nike and Kaepernick.
“Playing in a charity golf tournament raising money for our nation’s Special Forces operators and their families,” the now-deleted tweet reportedly read. “Unfortunately had these shoes in my bag. Luckily I had a marker in my bag too….”
The tweet was posted alongside a photo of someone coloring over the Nike logo on a pair of shoes.
Bono defended the tweet in a statement posted to her Twitter account on Tuesday regarding her resignation. She said that her tweet was her exercising her First Amendment rights.
“With respect to Mr. Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel. I exercised mine: to mark over on my own golf shoes, the logo of the 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, who trained with several gymnastics clubs for a decade, revealed that she “witnessed first-hand the assaulting behavior of a coach,” and that it continues to “trouble” her, even today.
Olympic champions Aly Raisman and Simone Biles — who have both been critical of the organization in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal — condemned the tweet after Bono’s hiring was announced.
“*mouth drop*,” 21-year-old Biles, who was named to the 2018 world championship team on Friday, tweeted. “don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.”
Raisman also slammed the decision to hire Bono, tweeting on Monday: “My teammates & I reported Nassar’s abuse to USAG in 2015. We now know USOC & 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?”
An investigation by The Indianapolis Star found that law firm Faegre Baker Daniels — with which Bono was affiliated— worked with officials from USA Gymnastics to provide “false excuses” for Nassar’s absences from events, rather than reveal he was under investigation for sexually abusing children in his care.
Raisman continued, tweeting that Bono’s hire shows “this is not a ‘new’ USAG. Same corrupt decisions. Perhaps it’s because true accountability is less likely if authority is placed in the hands of someone similarly motivated to avoid it ….”
Bono spent 15 years as a U.S. Representative from Southern California from 1998-2013. 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.
USA Gymnastics continues to struggle in the wake of the Nassar scandal, in which more than 200 women have come forward over a two-year period to claim they were abused by the doctor, who claimed he was treating them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.