USA Gymnastics announced Friday it has parted ways with the director of its women’s program, but not everyone involved with USA Gymnastics seems to agree with the move.
In a statement released through USA Gymnastics, CEO Kerry Perry did not elaborate on the decision to split with Rhonda Faehn, nor did she indicate whether Faehn was fired or resigned.
“Rhonda Faehn is no longer with USA Gymnastics. This is a personnel matter that we will not discuss in detail,” Perry said in the statement.
Faehn is believed to be the first USA Gymnastics official to be told of sexual-abuse accusations against then-team doctor Larry Nassar. Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman is one of the more outspoken critics of Faehn, believing she should have gone directly to authorities when Faehn learned of the Nassar allegations in summer 2015.
Instead, Faehn notified then-USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny, who then hired an investigator. The FBI was then contacted more than five weeks later, according to multiple reports.
According to NBC News, Faehn was at a national training camp in Tennessee when she was called to USA Gymnastics headquarters on Thursday afternoon. According to the report, Faehn did not immediately resign but rather stayed at the camp, where the 22 gymnasts and their coaches in attendance learned of the news.
Reportedly “blindsided” by the news, the gymnasts then requested the final two practices at the camp be canceled.
“We all strongly disagree in this decision and believe that Rhonda is the glue that is holding us together right now,” national team gymnast JaFree Scott wrote on Instagram. “We all TRUST her and believe she is moving Team USA forward.”
On Thursday night, Team USA gymnast Margzetta Frazier reportedly tweeted a screen grab of a text message she sent to Perry, which said, in part, “I am deeply saddened, disappointed, and infuriated with the decisions being made by USAG. I understand and appreciate your effort to making USAG a better environment for athletes, but you are doing exactly the opposite. Getting rid of coaches is one thing, but doing so at an active national team camp is inconsiderate to us athletes and inappropriate. If we are the ones that you are ‘protecting’ then why are you getting rid of the people who actually care about us. Valeri Liukin was doing an incredible job as our head coordinator. Rhonda Faehn is an exceptional coach, human being, and mentor. She is the reason why we are moving forward. Or at least trying to.”
Frazier, a high school senior set to enroll and compete at UCLA this fall, has since deleted her Twitter account.
Liukin, a former Soviet Olympic champion and the father of 2008 U.S. gold-medal winner Nastia Liukin, took over as U.S. women’s team coordinator in September 2016 following the retirement of famed coach Marta Karolyi. But he stepped down in February citing stress from the “present climate.”
Perry was named USA Gymnastics CEO in December and is scheduled to testify before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Wednesday.
—Field Level Media