The Post-Nassar Dumpster Fire Part 1: USA Gymnastics

Don’t let the pug pattern fool you. I needed a positive aspect to this post.

Ah yes, the dumpster fire that is the aftermath of the Nassar abuse continues to burn. At this point it seems that the leadership at both Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics are adding gasoline, not water, to the situation. When is enough, enough?

Want to recap? I have you covered. But also:

 

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Admittedly, I have been delayed in writing these updates because I realized I actually needed to take a step away for my own mental and emotional well-being. So, we have a lot to discuss. Before we get to the recent events, let’s overview what has happened the past month:

  • Former USAG CEO Steve Penny plead the fifth at a Congressional hearing. Bonus– someone yelled “SHAME” as he exited the room, straight up GOT style.
  • USAG CEO Kerry Perry lies under oath.
  • Tom Forster is the new High Performance Team Coordinator for the Women’s Program (Marta Karolyi’s old position with a fancy new name).
  • Larry Nassar asked for a new trial and Judge Aquilina denied his motion.
  • The number of survivors is now over 400 women and children. This month numerous former and current athletes have come forward including 2000 Olympian Morgan White, Former National Team Members and current Alabama gymnasts Bailee Key and Amanda Jetter, as well as 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross and 2016 Olympian Madison Kocian, who both now compete for UCLA. This means that the entire 2012 Olympic Team and 4/5 of the 2016 Olympic Team are survivors of Nassar’s abuse.

Simone is Back. And She’s Not Here to Save USA Gymnastics.

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Simone Biles at the 2018 GK Classic

The big news this month is that not only is Simone back, but she is better than ever and not taking any shit from her sport’s governing organization. The GOAT of Artistic Gymnastics, Simone won the US Championships with the highest score of this new code of points #casual

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Simone came into Championships with even more upgrades. She was only in the gym for nine months. Is anyone surprised? Simone is even stronger than she was in 2016 and freaking killing it.

Simone gave an interview after the first training day of National Championships where she responded to a question about how she has to carry the positivity of the entire sport on her shoulders:

“No, it’s not fair to me because I can’t carry the whole gymnastics world on me. But I guess it’s kind of exciting I can bring some happiness back to the sport.”

When asked whether she believed USAG CEO Kerry Perry was doing enough to create change within American gymnastics, Simone stated:

“That’s a good question. I’m not so sure yet. Hopefully, it’s going in the right direction but nobody can know until Kerry Perry speaks up. It’s kind of hard.”

Asked if she thinks it’s time for Perry to take on a more public persona, Biles responded simply ‘yes, it’s her job.'”

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In a later interview Biles continued speaking about Perry’s lack of interest:

“She really hasn’t talked to my family too much. We had an interaction in January, but it was like, ‘Hey … just kind of passing through.’ That was it.”

Simone’s face after being asked about Perry’s lack of leadership is really all of our expressions.

Also important to note is that the US Championships were held in Boston, Aly Raisman’s hometown. She was not invited to the event as a guest of USAG; historically, previous Olympians have been invited by the organization to participate in signings and interactions with fans. Aly believed the snub was due to the fact that USAG does not want anything to do with her because she continues to demand change.

Perry did give a “press conference” at the end of US Championships. If you call reading a prepared statement, refusing to allow journalists to record her or ask certain questions an actual press conference.

USAG Hires Mary Lee Tracy. Then Asks to Resign. Or Fires Her. Or ????

Alright, try and follow along with me on one of the most bizarre and baffling developments that USA Gymnastics has managed to fumble as they “try” to “rebuild”.

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#1: USAG Names Mary Lee Tracy the Development Coordinator

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If you are the vintage gymnastics fan (read: born in the 80s and follow the Olympics), you’ll remember Mary Lee Tracy as one of the Head Coaches of the 1996 Olympic Team (along with Marta Karolyi). What you probably don’t know regarding Tracy’s history is her support of Larry Nassar even after FIFTY athletes came forward in 2016 detailing their abuse. On August 28th, USAG named her the Elite Development Coordinator for the Women’s Program. This position primarily focuses on working with junior athletes before they reach the elite level.

Let’s recap: In 2016, Tracy, unprovoked, gave an interview where she not only publicly sided with Nassar, but called him “amazing” the same time he was arrested for possession of child pornography (37,000 images):

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Later, Tracy would take to social media (a trend you’ll see as this shitshow progresses)  to victim-shame Aly Raisman as she talked about the horrible conditions at the National Training Center aka the Karolyi Ranch:

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She later got extremely defensive when Aly’s mom mentioned that Tracy may have had a different experience from the athletes, to which she responded:

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These are the greatest gymnasts in the world who were systematically being sexually and emotionally abused, starved, and put in the most stressful of situations. But sure, be happy that YOU have your own “little space”. Also, it should be noted that Nassar was the only adult allowed in the rooms of the athletes, where he often sexually abused them. So be thankful (#blessed) that Tracy had her own space because the athletes actually did not receive the same luxury.

For the record, two of Tracy’s former athletes have publicly come forward as survivors.

#2: Former Gymnasts Publicly Express Disappointment

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The next day Aly tweeted:

“USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past. This is a slap in the face for survivors, & further confirmation that nothing at has changed. What a profound disappointment!”

Former Cincinnati gymnast and 2000 Olympic Alternate Alyssa Beckerman also posted that both her coach and the gym atmosphere were so abusive needed therapy. She followed up with:

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#3: Tracy Goes on the Offensive, Claims she is being “Cyberbullied”

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Mary Lee responded to the backlash by claiming she iwas “cyberbullied” by the gymnasts and fans outraged that she was given the position:

“I’m at a point where – I’m a strong lady, but I have a great family, and none of this is worth risking my family or watching what my family is going through right now while people are saying these awful things about me.”

Rather than actually take responsibility for her actions, Tracy chose to instead paint herself as a victim…. to the survivors of abuse… that she previously discredited.

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I mean, this is just insanity right? Wait, my friends, it gets better. This is the disturbing response by the High Performance Coordinator (side note: who came up with this ridiculous title) posted to Tracy’s Facebook:

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Look for a future blog post dissecting this patronizing, shitty ass message. “We know these little girls do not understand the sacrifice she must endure to accomplish an ‘Olympic’ dream”? Actually Tom, many athletes, Olympian or not, understand the sacrifice because THEY (read: NOT YOU) have given everything. “Were they damaged?” Yeah, I’d say the team doctor who wasn’t even licensed to practice in the state where the Training Center was located but was able to sexually abuse 400+ girls, is a pretty big miss on your organization. #boybye

#4: USAG Asks Tracy to Resign

The plot thickens.

USA Gymnastics tweets:

“As a representative of the organization, she inappropriately contacted a survivor, who is also a represented plaintiff, in response to that survivor’s public criticism of her. USA Gymnastics decided it would be best to move forward without Ms. Tracy in this role.”

To which Tracy posts:

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So Mary Lee states that she tried to contact Aly (btw this is an edited FB post, she originally misspelled Aly as “Ali” which she later went back and corrected the first misspelling, but not the second) but Aly’s mom stated that Tracy did not contact her daughter. USAG responded that Tracy needed to resign not because the coach has a history of emotional and mental abuse of athletes, or victim-shamed current athletes, or supported a man who had abused 50 gymnasts at the time, but because she contacted Aly, a gymnast who currently has a lawsuit against the organization.

PS This is isn’t illegal! The new High Team Performance Coordinator (I HATE THIS TITEL) sat down with Aly at the US Championships to discuss the state of USAG.

#5: Tracy Resigns… Or Doesn’t… Or… What the Hell is Happening?

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Have you forgotten that you are all adults here? What is happening?

Kerry Perry Resigns

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As if she thought she could remain the CEO after all of this.

The new president of the USOC Sarah Hirshland released the following statement:

“We’ve been following their activity and as we close the day I’m afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment. Under the circumstances we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership. We are engaging with the USAG board to offer our perspective, and also our assistance, as they manage the situation. We expect some additional discussions will occur this weekend.”

It’s just so the USOC to show up at the end of a shitshow and say, “well, you know, this is all really bad.” Way to be proactive.

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#ClassicUSOC

This statement was followed up by a vote of no confidence by the US Elite Coaches Association for Women’s Gymnastics.

After nine months in the position, Kerry Perry resigned. The Board of Directors created a management committee to oversee the organization as they search for a new person for the role.

What’s Next?

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Could it get any worse?

From Nancy Armour:

“Without substantive changes, a leadership overhaul at USA Gymnastics will have little more impact than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and it will be only a matter of time before a new scandal breaks.”

USAG needs to change. The USOC needs to change.

Here’s the thing:

Nassar is in jail. But the fight and the positive changes that come out that are still happening. And are still relevant. He’s not a “monster”, he was enabled by multiple organizations. To pretend he’s the only guilty person is bullshit.

Maybe it’s time to call it a day and bring in people who not only can put out the fire but also build something new that actually takes care of our athletes (what a concept). These women have sacrificed their physical, emotional, and mental health for their organizations and yet even the simplest changes appear to be too much for leadership at USAG. Even with Perry’s resignation, there are still people working in the administration that covered up for Larry Nassar when he was allowed to quietly leave his position. Clearly things haven’t (and it doesn’t look like it will) change.

The athletes have won despite USA Gymnastics, not because of the organization. They will continue to do so under a new program as well. #decertifyusag

Get ready for Part 2: Michigan State! Spoiler Alert: it’s a dumpster fire there too.

Ashlyn

 

Currently Reading: This Mournable Body (Tsitsi Dangarembga)

Currently Watching: Better Call Saul (Season 4)

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