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USA Gymnastics President Kerry Perry Forced To Resign After Leadership Missteps

Sep 4, 2018
Originally published on September 4, 2018 6:17 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The organization that oversees gymnastics in the U.S. has been trying to right itself after the sexual abuse scandal involving former national team doctor Larry Nassar. Today USA Gymnastics announced that its president and CEO, Kerry Perry, is resigning. She's only been on the job a little more than nine months.

And NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us now. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What happened? Why is Kerry Perry out after less than a year?

GOLDMAN: You know, there are a number of reasons, but most immediately it's because of what happened last week. Perry and USA Gymnastics hired a veteran coach, Mary Lee Tracy, and then asked her to resign just three days later after she reportedly contacted Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman, who's currently suing USA Gymnastics for the way it handled the Larry Nassar scandal. Tracy wasn't supposed to contact Raisman.

But Tracy's hiring in the first place was unpopular with many gymnasts and others in the community because Tracy had initially supported Nassar when the allegations against him first started coming out. And as a reminder, more than 150 women said Nassar abused them. He's currently in prison effectively serving a life sentence. So Tracy resigned last week. And the new head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland, said, quote, "it's time to consider making adjustments in the leadership of USA Gymnastics." And indeed USAG did just that by forcing out Kerry Perry.

SHAPIRO: Well, this sounds like the kind of housecleaning that USA Gymnastics has been trying to do has not been entirely successful.

GOLDMAN: Yes. And, you know, the problems with Perry go beyond and the dissatisfaction go beyond what happened with coach Tracy from last week. There was - there were complaints that Perry wasn't truthful in testifying to Congress about what USA Gymnastics was doing to correct things after the Nassar scandal. Perry said the federation was being quite proactive, making changes after a former federal prosecutor investigated and made it - and made a number of recommendations.

The recommendations were adopted, but to this date fewer than 50 percent have been put in place. Perry painted a much rosier picture to Congress. And also, Perry came to USA Gymnastics with a marketing background. And the knock against her was she was focused more on marketing and ticket sales rather than rolling up her sleeves and, you know, really doing the hard work it would take to lift the federation and the sport out of its crisis.

Aly Raisman was quoted in The New York Times in July saying about Perry and other USA Gymnastics officials, all we want is these people in charge to talk to us so we can help them make changes, but they won't even bother to reach out to us.

SHAPIRO: So what's the reaction been today to her departure?

GOLDMAN: You know, the general public looks at something like this and sees it as further indication that USA Gymnastics is a mess. But one insider I talked to said very positive things. I spoke today to Jessica O'Beirne. She's a former gymnast and gymnastics coach. She has a gymnastics podcast. She said she was thrilled, ecstatic and an indication that things are moving in the right direction. O'Beirne says Perry was chosen by the old board of directors, which was forced to resign as part of the Larry Nassar fallout. The new board has been in place for several months. There are more members from outside the world of gymnastics. And O'Beirne says forcing Perry out is a sign that this new board is serious about taking the federation and the sport in the right direction.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Ari.

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