American Olympic powerhouse Simone Biles ripped the new head of USA Gymnastics for a tweet attacking Nike after its ad that featured former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Mary Bono, interim president and CEO of the sport’s national governing body, apologized soon after.
Bono, a former GOP congresswoman from California, posted a tweet last month featuring a photo of her blacking out the Nike logo on her golf shoes. She didn’t name Kaepernick. But such actions have been posted on social media as a protest against the new Nike ad campaign starring Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49ers player drew President Donald Trump’s ire when he took a knee during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality and racial inequality, launching a movement.
Biles responded Saturday to Bono with her own tweet: “Mouth drop. Don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter USA Gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.”
Biles, who won four gold medals and a bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics, had just been chosen the previous day for Team USA for the upcoming World Championships in Qatar. The athlete, considered one of the most talented female gymnasts in the world, is sponsored by Nike.
USA Gymnastics’ former team doctor Larry Nassar is serving up to 175 years in prison for multiple sex crimes against athletes. Before Nassar was sentenced in January, 169 sex abuse survivors and family members spoke out against him in court. Biles is a survivor of Nassar’s abuse.
Key team funder Under Armour dropped its sponsorship in the wake of the scandal.
Biles wore a teal leotard during the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in August because the color signals support for survivors of sexual abuse.
Bono removed her tweet attacking Nike, but other athletes and fans of Biles have posted screenshots of it.
Bono apologized late Saturday.
“I regret the post and I respect everyone’s views and fundamental right to express them,” she said on her Twitter account and in a statement issued by the sports organization.
“This in no way reflects how I will approach my position at USA Gymnastics. I will do everything I can to help change the culture and to work with the entire community to build an open, safe and positive environment.”
Some of Biles’ supporters said on social media that Bono should have been vetted more thoroughly and should not have been chosen if she doesn’t support athletes expressing their views, particularly given the organization’s history.
There was no immediate response from Biles.