USA Gymnastics has hired former NBA Vice President Li Li Leung as the organization's new president and CEO. The announcement was made Tuesday morning on Twitter.
Leung, a former gymnastic, will serve as the Olympic governing body's fourth leader in 23 months and comes on board as USA Gymnastics battles to survive bankruptcy following the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal fallout.
The former NBA executive will replace interim USA gymnastics president and CEO Mary Bono, who was appointed in early October and resigned less than a week after her appointment. She faced backlash over a previous tweet about Nike that she sent shortly after Nike's launch of the "Just Do It" campaign with Colin Kaepernick.
Leung said she was not looking to leave the NBA but felt compelled to given the current state of the USA Gymnastics organization.
“I was in a great position at the NBA and I wasn’t looking to leave. Gymnastics has been a huge part of my life and, to this day, I’m still embedded in this sport,” Leung said on a conference call, per the IndyStar. “It really broke my heart to see where the sport was. It compelled me to step forward. We can do better for the community and the sport.”
The organization's Board of Directors said they hired Leung for her experience and passion for the sport.
“Li Li’s unique combination of business skills, management experience and passion for gymnastics make her perfectly suited to lead our organization at this important time in our history,” Kathryn Carson, USA Gymnastics Board chair, said in a statement. “She brings strong leadership, organizational and communication skills from her over two-decade professional career in sports business and management. She also has deep roots in gymnastics, having competed at a high level before moving to collegiate gymnastics. We are thrilled to have Li Li as our next president and CEO, and the Board looks forward to supporting Li Li as she delivers her vision to transform and strengthen our organization and culture.”
Facing what court documents estimate to be between $75 and $150 million in liability settlements owed to Nassar survivors in dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits, USA Gymnastics officials filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December.
The petition was filed in Indianapolis, where the organization is based. USA Gymnastics faces 100 lawsuits representing 350 athletes in various courts across the country who blame the group for failing to supervise Larry Nassar, a team doctor accused of molesting them. Leung said she will make it a priority to resolve those claims.
"Like everyone, I was upset and angry to learn about the abuse and the institutions that let the athletes down," Leung said in a statement. "I admire the courage and strength of the survivors, and I will make it a priority to see that their claims are resolved. I look forward to collaborating with the entire gymnastics community to create further change going forward, which requires that we implement important initiatives to strengthen athlete health and safety and build a clear and inclusive plan for the future. For me, this is much more than a job: it is a personal calling, for which I stand ready to answer.”
The organization is also under threat of decertification by the United States Olympic Committee.
Leung said Tuesday that she has already spoken with USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland, and added that “both sides are committed to work closely to resolved decertification.”
Hirshland issued a statement in response to Leung’s hiring.
“American gymnasts deserve the support of a world-class organization and securing top-level management is one of the most important aspects of USA Gymnastics’ way forward,” Hirshland said. “Li Li Lueng is an accomplished professional, a former gymnast herself, and committed to transforming the culture of the sport.