Things Are Happening – August 31, 2018

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Because it just doesn’t stop. The insanity grows ever richer. It would be funny…if it weren’t clearly a meth addiction.

So, here are the developments of the last two days from the saga that is Mary Lee Tracy.

1) Mary Lee Tracy was appointed as the new head of the elite developmental program.

I had issues with choosing MLT for this position, including but not limited to her status as an insider in a program that desperately needs outsider perspectives, her public support of That Guy coming MONTHS after everyone already knew exactly how awful he was, and horror stories related by former athletes like Dominique Moceanu and Alyssa Beckerman.

I would have preferred the selection a coach who seemed to understand how hurtful it is to respond to news of abuse with “MY athletes had a great time, so…”

Because imagine having that conversation in person.

Athlete: I was abused by Larry Nassar.
You: Well, everyone I know had a positive experience with him.

That’s not just innocently “telling your own experience.”  That’s a denial of that athlete’s experience. It says you’re not interested. It says you’re not listening. It says that you consider your own experience more significant and superior to theirs.  Plus, you don’t even know whether your athletes actually did have a positive experience—only they themselves can speak to that.

For someone in charge of the littles and of mentoring other new elite coaches, that was a problem, one that at the very least needed to be addressed and apologized for (compellingly) with a commitment to do better. Otherwise, you worry that future reports of abuse will get the “No, I know him, he’s great, that couldn’t have happened…” treatment.

I was nonetheless still surprised by the intensity of anger shown regarding Mary Lee’s hiring from people who aren’t perpetually cranky like me. I mean, I wrote a diatribe about it, but of course I did. Where is this level of outrage when I write 16 caps-lock paragraphs about how stupid the Faroe Islands team selection for the Northern European Championships was? That’s the real question.

But, it was such a tone-deaf move from USAG, one that was just so representative of the “can’t we just move on?” culture that still persists within gymnastics—even though the answer is a resounding no—that I think people just couldn’t take it anymore. And I do think USAG had no idea that hiring MLT would provoke the level of anger it did, which…are you even alive in the world? LISTEN.

2) So then what happened?

“I am deeply sorry for the comments I made about Larry Nassar in an interview in December 2016. I was wrong. I was not as educated as I needed to be before speaking, both about the crimes of Mr. Nassar and how my words might affect others, and I understand now just how hurtful that was to the survivors who had already been through so much…”

…is not what Mary Lee Tracy said. She could have, and this probably would have gone away, but that’s not what happened. (Being honest, I would have still criticized this as empty words, and being too little too late, but most real people would have appreciated some kind of actual apology.)

Instead, things progressed, anger grew, local news stories were made, and defensiveness and doubling down on past mistakes were the names of the game. Tom Forster came to MLT’s defense with a Facebook post that probably should have been left unwritten.

I know I should be talking about how this post reinforces a lot of that old “coaches are more important than the athletes—were they damaged, WHO CARES” thinking, but let’s be honest, I can’t get past “entwined in a positive, magical way.” I’ve been laughing about it nonstop for 48 hours.

Remember during Morgan-Simone when everyone was like, “These gymnasts need to learn responsible use of social media!!!!” I feel like we should start with the coaches. They’re the WORST about it. You know other people can see this stuff, right? STOP DIGGING, YOU’VE STRUCK DIARRHEA.

3) Mary Lee Tracy tells everyone that she’s being cyber-bullied and might resign because of it.

Because she’s the real victim here. Now, I totally believe that MLT was receiving unacceptable emails that went beyond the kind of legitimate and necessary criticism we’re engaging in here. (Reminder: criticism is not cyber-bullying.) I mean, think about all the death threats gymnasts get for things like having hair or falling on beam or whatever—and they didn’t even do anything wrong. This definitely fits with my “people are consistently horrible” worldview.

But MLT’s other comments in this piece showed a continued defense of the fact that she was unwilling to countenance everything we already knew about That Guy, even in December 2016, simply because she was friends with him. That’s not OK.

4) Mary Lee Tracy resigns!

But it wasn’t because of the cyber-bullying, like it was supposed to be. MLT resigned because Kerry Perry got involved.

(You KNOW that KP only learned who Mary Lee was yesterday and had no idea who she was when she was hired—you KNOW it).

You guys.

YOU GUYS.

I CANNOT.

So first of all, it’s Aly. Not Ali.

Was that a try?

I RESPECT YOU SO MUCH I DON’T KNOW YOUR NAME.

Also, MLT later went back and fixed the first Ali, but not the second Ali. Even better.

Next, we need to break it down. So, apparently, Mary Lee privately tried to contact Ali without permission from the organization that now employs her, an organization that is also in ongoing litigation with Alii. Conflicts! Clearly, USAG’s lawyers weren’t thrilled about that.

Part of the complication here is that Kerry Perry and Tom Forster just spoke with Aliii at nationals, so they’re OK with it in certain circumstances. The not getting permission thing must be the kicker. WE COULDN’T CONTROL WHAT YOU SAID. Or, things had reached an untenable position with regard to public anger that they needed MLT to go and were just looking for a reason. USAG’s primary mission has always been, and continues to be, the avoidance of bad press and avoidance of responsibility.

Dear USAG: If there’s one thing we know about the US gymnastics community based on the last couple years, it’s that when it comes to all things that aren’t double pikes, no basic knowledge should be assumed and constant instruction is required. You should be aware of that by now.

Does Nassar have to be licensed to practice medicine in Texas? Should I report sexual abuse of a child to police? Does it still count as sexual abuse even if it didn’t happen to someone I know? Should I not include my private phone number and email address on documents that will be entered into the public congressional record? WHO COULD POSSIBLY KNOW THE ANSWER TO THESE RIDDLES?

The sad part is that morally, Mary Lee contacting Aleeeiieee was the right thing to do. It showed a willingness to try to understand where other people are coming from and understand why her previous comments were upsetting. It was a positive move toward reconciliation and makes me think better of MLT, even if it was not the most…well thought out decision.

By taking the position in the first place, MLT made the choice to ally (or should I say alli) herself with USAG, with its actions, with its legal strategy, and with the insane whims of Kerry Perry. She chose this. She chose team USAG. Most people aren’t taking these positions right now for exactly that reason. They don’t want to have to stand by USAG even when it sucks. So yeah, you should have been able to contact Allllleeeeeeee to talk and learn and have a moment and whatnot, but you chose the path of not being able to do that.

It’s almost like there’s a disconnect between working for USAG and behaving like an actual human person. You can’t do both. It’s been said before, but this really reinforces it, that nothing is going to get better until the legal process is completed. It just can’t.

It’s also sort of hilarious to me that THIS is what she had to resign for. Not for any of the actual bad things. This. It’s just so USAG.

5) So where are we on this?

Mary Lee resigning the position was probably the right thing to do, because of…see point #1…even if the means with which it came about were ridiculous. She’s too divisive of a figure, if nothing else, and cannot represent a Changed USAG. Public positions like these need to be about more than just the ability to teach skills.

So in the end…

6) BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.

PSYCH! Mary Lee isn’t resigning anymore.

Oh. Oh dear. This isn’t going to end well.

So now we have to grapple with the dueling ideas that 1) MLT should have resigned and should probably have stayed resigned, 2) USAG has a lot to answer for in hiring her in the first place and the fishy circumstances regarding asking her to resign, and 3) Kerry Perry is the worst.

#TeamNobody

7) USAG’s statement

So, uh, OK. Now we know where USAG draws the line. Talking to Aly. Ron Galimore is still fine.

8) Because there’s more, obviously

As far as they can tell, Aly has not received a message from Mary Lee.

THIS. IS. SO. WEIRD.

Mary Lee says she tried to contact Aly.
USAG says she did contact Aly.
And Aly’s like, “Literally what? I was napping.”

So what, did Mary Lee pick up the phone and then Kerry Perry appeared in a cloud of smoke to slap it out of her hand? Did MLT ask to try to contact Aly and they were like, “HAHA FIRED”? Is the whole “contacting Aly” situation just a total lie from the start?

If contacting Aly is a total lie, I am entirely unsurprised by that from USAG (because everything they do is a blatant and disastrous lie), but what would be MLT’s motivation to say she tried to contact Aly if she didn’t? That’s the piece I still want explained here. (And also all the pieces.)

Did MLT try to contact Aly, Aly never got it or MLT never ended up doing it, but USAG got wind of the intention somehow and were like, “YESSSSSS. EXCUSE FOR FIRING”? That’s the only way I can make sense of all of this given what we know right now.

9) The party don’t start until USOC walks in

The entire game plan of the USOC is to do nothing forever, let everything be trash, and then show up way too late and pretend to be the adult in the room. This is continuing. The new CEO Sarah Hirshland just rolled up to make the following statement about USAG:

“We’ve been following their activity and as we close the day I’m afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment.”

SAME. SOULMATES.

You had me at “nothing but disappointment.”

Hirshland went on to mention “making adjustments in leadership” at USAG.

Translation: Kerry, ya burnt. The USOC is in charge, and the USOC gets what it wants.

Also, can we talk about how KP has been CEO for only NINE MONTHS? It feels like one thousand lifetimes.

10) Vote of no confidence

Now, the US Elite Coaches Association for Women’s Gymnastics (which is a thing, apparently) has issued a vote of no confidence in Kerry Perry.

Oh hey, I also have no confidence in Kerry Perry! Bonding moment!

So…question. Do we focus on all of our problems with this letter (Where have you been until now? Who is in this association? Why was this thing written by a 2nd grader? Why does your motto start with “win medals”? Where was this letter when Steve Effing Penny was in charge?)…or do we just accept that they’re on the BOO KP side and that’s a good thing in the end?

But also, if the saga with MLT has taught us anything, it’s that maybe “listening to the elite coaches more” is not an ideal solution. Let’s listen to some of the elite coaches more. And some of them super less.

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59 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – August 31, 2018”

  1. Old guard needs to go NOW. Look at the usag elite committee – Strauss and Hill?? The ” how dare you have an opinion or speak up about about your gymnastics” coaches created the environment for Nassar’s abuse. Hill lined up her gymnasts and told them not to believe everything they heard because the girls accusing him were liars. The culture at the top trickles down and it’s still toxic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never ever heard that about Hill, and I’ve heard lots of rumors about lots of people. Where did you hear that? Regardless of the reasons people are upset with Kelli Hill, that simply doesn’t sound like her at all. Source?

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      1. Hill never said the victims were liars. When the allegations began to come out, she asked her gymnasts not to jump to conclusions and wait and see. Once it became clear the allegations were true, she has expressed support for the victims and has said that she and every adult involved was responsible for letting him get away with it. Her ill-advised comments about Aly were solely about the food at the ranch, never about whether Aly was abused.

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  2. “USAG’s primary mission has always been, and continues to be, the avoidance of bad press and avoidance of responsibility.”

    Perhaps they should stop trying so hard to avoid bad press so hard because then they might actually do something right. In other words, they’re desperation to avoid bad press is actually leading to a lot of bad press. Stop trying so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. I hope the survivors find healing. But the constant whining from the gymternet, is getting tiresome… implement changes, and enough with the crying, and snowflaking. You want everyone to burn!

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  3. Have you looked at Tom Forster’s Facebook page? His puppy was a special gift from Bela Karolyi, one of his coaching heroes…

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  4. I’m no longer sure if gymnastics is a comedy OR a drama. At this point it may have created its own genre. What do you call a sports movie that combines horror flashbacks with current courtroom drama all set against the background of World War Twitter and spliced with moments of slapstick comedy (USAG rebuilding on a banana peel) and science fiction (USAG’s explanations).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ugh barf for fucks sake I was trying to give Tom Forster a chance but YEEEEEEIKES NOPE plz decertify and burn this shit and start over. Cue Ablyazin fuck this shit I’m out video. At this point, a series of functioning JO coaches handling skills, a random ex-Congress/business critter with a sports background for admin, and a handful of woke survivors could do a better job. Let’s call them US Gym Federation, which can then appeal to IOC and Congress for recognition.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d be interested in reading any comments from any legal experts here about USAG coming down on MLT for contacting (or trying to contact) Aly. I wouldn’t be surprised if many lawyers would agree that it’s not advisable to contact a party that is suing your employer.

    And now MLT is seeking a lawyer to fight against the dismissal!? This week on Court TV…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am an attorney and it is my belief that MLT attempting to contact Aly – a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit against USAG – was completely inappropriate, from a legal perspective. Ethically and as a human being – well, that is a different matter. Unfortunately, even something as humane as a generic, non-specific, simply showing empathy type of apology can be viewed by a court as an admission of guilt or liability. That is why so many defendants clam up and give “no comment” statements.

      MLT was given a high-level position within USAG. Therefore, she is a de facto agent of USAG and anything that she says can be attributed to USAG. Most entities don’t want their agents speaking to individuals who are suing them without their attorneys’ vetting the message first. Strategically, it makes perfect sense. A lot is at stake here and MLT simply isn’t trained to keep her mouth shut. I think this has been established over the last few days by what she is writing on her FB page.

      So, should she have been fired (being asked to resign IS being fired)? Well, legally there isn’t anything impermissible about firing her for that reason. An axiom of employment law is “an employer can fire someone for any reason; a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all, just not for an illegal reason.”

      But, is that the REAL reason USAG asked her to resign? I don’t know.

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  7. y is nobody calling out what Lori Forester did. Calling all her athletes to personally ask them if they we abused and then tell the world that they wern’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Typical USAG BS…. reformed my ass…… they still haven’t owed it up to being real and still cowering with bs lawyer and more bs…. i think we need another mass replacement..

    Sad because if this keeps on going, sooner or later there will be significant impact on the US team… I think we already see one breakdown between simone and morgan which i believe this whole USAG is not helping but the lack of camp is breaking down the team spirit.

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  9. Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, since Dominique Dawes and Shannon Miller are accomplished OUTSIDE of gymnastics, they would be perfect in any of these roles. They saved USAG before as gymnasts, now we should solicit them to save USAG as administrators. Think about a Dominique Dawes as CEO of USAG, and Shannon Miller, or Betty Okino, or Mohini as team coordinators.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What would you tell an awesome 12 year old L10 American who is considering Elite at this point? Don’t for a couple years, things might be ok when you’re 15? Don’t, switch sports? Stay L10 until college, USA may not be even fielding a 2024 Olympic team?

    Seriously I was expecting a bad year or two for American gymnastics. Now I worry about a bad couple of quads. What a dumpster fire. I feel so terrible for the athletes.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “MLT made the choice to ally (or should I say alli) herself with USAG,”
    OMG I’m dying.

    Remember that gymnastics show “Make it or Break it” and how it was so absurdly dramatic and silly? USAG in real life has now risen to a level of absurdity that even the creators of “Make it or Break it” couldn’t fathom.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What I love about Make it or Break it was the billion foot wide balance beam – no really gymnast would ever fall off of that thing. 🙂

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    2. AB- Remember that gymnastics show “Make it or Break it” and how it was so absurdly dramatic and silly? USAG in real life has now risen to a level of absurdity that even the creators of “Make it or Break it” couldn’t fathom.

      OMG, YASSSS!

      Like

  12. As long as we’re focused on transparency, what are the processes for filling any of these positions? Was there a national candidate search? Who led it? Who was on the interview loops? Were there widely published job descriptions? If anyone has seen them, please share. It would probably shed light on whether they were going for a restart or old guard. It’s hard to believe that we can’t cast the net wider and bring in a diversity of perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. And then there are still parents of current HOPES athletes, that say quote aly/the gymternet will never be statisfied with who they bring in.. and that the camp takes place because they’ve paid.. folks, it’s not just coaches, parents are part of the problem still as well..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen. The parents willing to turn a blind eye to any and all of this, as long as their own little darling gets to go to camp and be Elite by age 12 are the reason this is still nowhere near being solved.

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      1. Yes, this is part of the toxic culture too! The only whining I see going on is from the people claiming that the survioirs need to “move on and heal already”. It’s disgusting!

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  14. It probably is true no employee of USAG should be talking to a plaintiff about “mistakes” without legal training or the advice of counsel or without another set of ears, but that does not mean there aren’t other ways to get needed input or seek it before accepting a role.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I feel badly for finding it funny because aside from those who deserve nothing but scorn, this all does affect a whole lot of people who don’t deserve it. And yet I’m cringing and laughing at the same time. I can’t help it. Uncle Tom calling it USAG a telenovela was almost on point, but frankly Soap Operas—where people come back from the dead Lin a regular basis, are more logical than all of this. And thank you for pointing out all that is wrong with that letter.. So poorly written, it just fits right into this whole mess perfectly.

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  16. How about the logic of…”The biggest challenge in our sport is that our athletes are teenagers. A challenge the normal person cannot comprehend.” As a ‘normal’ person, I think the biggest challenge is elite teenage athletes have been taken advantage of sexually, physically, emotionally, and financially.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I feel just as heartbroken about Forster’s dumbass FB post. How can he not see the longterm, “magical” incestuousness between all of these people is EXACTLY THE PROBLEM, and maintains an allegiance to the past instead of the future?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My taxi driver from the airport in the Faroes has children on the national team (not artistic, I forget which discipline). I didn’t realize you were so passionate about the team, I would have brought it up! Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. So crazy.. its absolutely absurd that anyone involved with this scandal in any capacity would be named to work on a national level developing new talent. Absolutely appalling – when is KP going to go… They are killing this beautiful sport.

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  20. KP must go. Does *anyone* involved in gymnastics in the US–gymnasts, parents, coaches, fans, trainers, etc.–have *any* confidence in her? She is annoying and ridiculous. She is the opposite of an “empowering”–her pet word–CEO.

    It is hard for the USAG to move forward with the lawsuits hanging over everything. They need to settle these lawsuits fast or they will be forever stuck in quicksand.

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  21. And KP is gone… Does anybody else have that wizard of oz song “ding dong the witch is dead…” on infinite repeat in their heads? Just me?

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    1. Ironically, today’s news also reports that a stolen real pair of Dorothy’s/Garland’s Ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz was just recovered. Any truth to the rumor that they were found on KP’s feet when she was crushed under the USAG house after a tornado?

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  22. So, will Aly Raisman be a surprise guest on the upcoming season of television’s “The Bachelor” starring Colton Underwood?

    If you were a show-runner / writer / producer on that show, would you want to incorporate Aly Raisman into the show? Do you think there’s any chance in h that Aly would do it?

    Like

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