Gymnastics journalist Hannah Robbins discusses USA Gymnastics’ new low and the maneuvering that might only harm athletes and survivors further.
If you were worried about USA Gymnastics falling out of the news after the U.S. Olympic Committee started the process of revoking their status as the sport’s national governing board, worry no more. USA Gymnastics filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier last month, and as with most things news-related to USAG, when they sought to fix the problem, they actually made it worse.
USA Gymnastics claims, in a move similar to that of Catholic dioceses, that filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy will help it reach settlements on the dozens of lawsuits that it is involved in. By filing bankruptcy, USAG is speeding up the mediation process, and it won’t affect the amount of money available for settlements since that will be provided by previously purchased insurance.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has stated it is re-evaluating whether it can continue the process of stripping them of their rights, noting that a bankrupt NGB would struggle to operate in the best interests of its athletes. USA Gymnastics stated that it is not filing bankruptcy for monetary reasons, but rather because this gives them a method to reorganize to continue to exist.
However, this bankruptcy can, and has, harmed people. First, this puts a stop to depositions and discovery of USA Gymnastics officials related to lawsuits against Larry Nassar, the doctor who sexually assaulted and abused over 300 gymnasts. This means any ongoing lawsuits may be unable to continue the litigation process as this bankruptcy occurs.
In addition, USA Gymnastics has continued to highlight its hypocrisy during its bankruptcy. Earlier this month, USAG went to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to ask for help paying employees $88,000 in bonuses. These bonuses go to 40 employees and are holiday bonuses in increments of either $1,000 or $5,000. This would be a strange request, but not unheard of, if not for two facts.
First, one of the employees receiving a holiday bonus is Amy White. White is the national teams manager and allegedly removed documents from the Karolyi ranch on the orders of Steve Penny, former USA Gymnastics president. When she was deposed in Aly Raisman’s lawsuit on Nov. 13, she plead the fifth 130 separate times.
Second, while USA Gymnastics is going to court to ask for holiday bonuses, its athletes are not getting paid. News broke last week that male gymnasts have not received their monthly stipend this month, and some haven’t received it since November. Non-NCAA gymnasts receive this stipend from USA Gymnastics in order to help cover the costs of training and preparing for the 2020 Olympics. In addition, coaches that attended the Gymnastics Worlds in Doha last year did not receive their pay from USAG.
USA Gymnastics needs to get its act together or it will not be in suitable state to select athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. If that were to occur, then it would be the U.S. Olympic Committee that would select those athletes. Maybe filing for bankruptcy is the final push to get the organization back on track, but at this point, it might be too late.