USA Gymnastics CEO Perry Scrutinized In First Media Briefing
USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry did "little to quell growing concerns regarding the sport’s future in her first media briefing since being appointed to the position" on Dec. 1, according to Owen Pence of the BOSTON GLOBE. Perry addressed members of the media yesterday at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships at TD Garden with a "pre-written statement of around seven minutes before fielding questions." Though she continually "stressed the importance of creating an environment where athletes feel heard and are comfortable voicing their feelings and concerns, few specifics were offered, perhaps a result of the organization’s ongoing legal battles." Many of Perry’s responses were "robotic in nature and contained stock phrases about empowerment and 'the path forward.'" When asked whether there would be any recognition of the Larry Nassar victims prior to the senior women’s final session last night, Perry "deflected, speaking instead of celebrating those competing" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/20).
TALKING BUT NOT SAYING ANYTHING? Perry yesterday during NBC's coverage of the U.S. Gymnastics Championships talked to the net's Andrea Joyce, who asked Perry what the "single most important change" she has made since joining the NGB is that will "have an impact on the current crop of gymnasts.” Perry said, “This is a really important time in our sport, and I believe we have not only the responsibility but the opportunity to ensure that all of the voices of our athletes and survivors are heard." She said one of the most important changes made was to "create an athlete task force" that "represents our athletes, one including a survivor of sexual abuse, that helps us make really important decisions in our organization.” Perry addressed the criticism over the lack of communication from USAG, saying, "For the past eight months I spent a lot of time just really listening and hearing all of our athletes and survivors and our members to really understand our path forward. We're going to continue to communicate to our membership and we're going to continue to communicate to the public.” She added, "We continue on the path of making bold decisions, bold changes and that we communicate those as often as we can, continuing that through our membership and through different mediums” (“U.S. Gymnastics Championships,” NBC, 8/19).
NOT GOOD ENOUGH: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes Perry offered "nothing of substance, and if she responds to athletes’ concerns as vaguely and indirectly as she responded in the 22-minute session, the organization is in the wrong hands." When asked about the "anxiety athletes and coaches have expressed over the lack of national team training camps and their dismay over the abrupt firing of the head of the women’s program, the best Perry could manage is that change is hard." Not even a question about the criticism raised by Gold Medal-winning U.S. gymnast Simone Biles could get Perry to "divert from her talking points and offer some substance." Or "show some emotion" (USA TODAY, 8/20). ESPNW's D'Arcy Maine wrote under the header, "U.S. Gymnasts Deserve Better Than What Kerry Perry Has So Far Delivered." While she mentioned she was "unable to answer certain questions due to the ongoing litigation, Perry remained vague in her responses even with questions that didn't seem to reference the legal proceedings." She insisted that she had spoken to Biles when asked about her comments last week, and claimed to have had "several conversation with Biles' parents." Biles, who won her fifth all-around national title yesterday, "disputed the claim." Biles said, "She really hasn't talked to my family too much. I know we had an interaction in January. It was like, 'Hey, whatever her title is, president of USAG,' and (she was) just kind of passing through. That was it" (ESPNW.com, 8/19). Former U.S. gymnast Chellsie Memmel, who was part of the panel that selected Perry, expressed disappointment, saying she had expected Perry to be “the face of USA Gymnastics and the positive change and the positive force.” Memmel: "I want more" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/20).
SOMETHING'S MISSING: In Boston, Kat Hasenauer Cornetta notes unlike at past national championships, the concourse at TD Garden was "mostly barren of sponsor’s booths, and the event was without a title sponsor for the first time in recent memory." Perry claimed that there are "sponsors at the ready." She said, "Of course we had a few that said that under this environment, we can’t continue our relationship at the end of their agreement. But we’ve had several sponsors who have said that they are encouraged by the changes we are making, and that we believe in the path you are taking this organization and we want to stand by USA Gymnastics" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/20). ESPNW's Maine noted the "loss of several longtime sponsors, including Under Armour, Kellogg's and Procter & Gamble, the previous title sponsor of the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, have been well documented over the past several months." Xfinity was the only "visible sponsor during the weekend's event, but even that is part of a larger deal" with the USOC, and its multi-sport Team USA Summer Champions Series (ESPNW.com, 8/19). In Houston, David Barron notes the USAG website "includes mentions of just two sponsors, including United Airlines," which also has a deal with the USOC (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/20).
MAKING A STATEMENT: The AP's Will Graves notes Biles "designed the leotard she wore" yesterday, all the way down to the "light shade of teal." It is the "designated color for survivors of sexual abuse, a group that includes Biles." Biles said, "I stand with all of them and I think it's kind of special to unite (people)." She "came up with the idea eight months ago" (AP, 8/20). USA TODAY's Armour writes under the header, "Simone Biles Speaks Volumes Where USA Gymnastics Does Not At U.S. Gymnastics Championships" (USA TODAY, 8/20).
TWITTER REAX: Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander tweeted, "Perry says she's reached out to survivors. My cell hasn't rung, I passed it to Perry after sentencing. Wondering if @Aly_Raisman, Jeanette Antolin, Jaime @dantzscher or any other sisters have been contacted by Perry for their input?" The AP's Graves: "Candor is not gonna be a thing until the legal side is settled." Wisconsin State Journal's Jason Wilde: "Stop nodding and repeating rehearsed platitudes and be real about the abomination of Larry Nassar and how you will prevent it from happening again to your sport." Olympic writer Philip Hersh: "Dump Perry now." Inside Gymnastics magazine: "Having a good day: Simone Biles. ... Not having a good day: Kerry Perry."