Last week, USA Gymnastics asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to approve $88,000 in holiday bonuses for its office staff. On Thursday, the Orange County Register reported that the gymnasts on the U.S. men’s national team have not received their monthly support checks from the federation, and that coaches who worked with the men’s and women’s teams at the world championships in Doha also have not been paid.
Members of the U.S. men’s national team who are not competing in the NCAA received a monthly stipend of $1,875, at least until recently. Some team members told the Register that they haven’t received a support payment from the national governing body since November.
USA Gymnastics told the 2018 world championship team coaches that they would have to take the matter up with the bankruptcy court. As for the missing national team training stipends, USAG told the Register that it’s working on it with the USOC.
“The USOC’s Direct Athlete Support (DAS) funding is part of the Performance Partnership Agreement, which is reviewed and mutually agreed upon between the USOC and USA Gymnastics annually. At the beginning of each year, qualified athletes must renew the Performance Partnership Agreement for the coming year. DAS is paid directly by the USOC to eligible athletes and has not been affected by the USA Gymnastics Chapter 11 bankruptcy/reorganization filing. A very similar situation occurred in January 2018 as well, and the administrative process for renewing the payments for 2019 is in progress.”
The men’s gymnastics field in the U.S. is already quite thin, especially compared to the women. Failing to pay the men what they’re owed will make it more difficult for many gymnasts to stick with the sport, let alone be competitive with their peers from other countries like Japan and China.
More urgently, that lack of funds will make it more difficult for gymnasts and their coaches to participate in programs to help them improve and advance. One coach of a high-level male gymnast told Deadspin that even amounts of money much smaller than the national team stipends haven’t been paid. He recently had a check bounce that was issued by USA Gymnastics for a few days of coaching work at a training camp. “It comes in the mail a month and a half later. I went to go put it in the bank,” he said. “It was the day after USA Gymnastics declared bankruptcy.”
Particularly galling to many of those waiting on checks is that one of USAG’s bonus recipients is Amy White, the employee who removed medical records from the Karolyi Ranch in 2016 under the orders of then-CEO Steve Penny. Penny was indicted on charges of evidence tampering in October.
“That’s pretty callous to survivors,” Mark Williams, the head coach of the University of Oklahoma’s NCAA championship team, told the Register. (Williams also coaches Allan Bowers and Yul Moldauer, both members of the national team.)
The loss of their stipends is not the only financial blow the men have faced over the last two years. At the end of 2016, Hilton did not renew its partnerships with the USOC, USA Gymnastics, and USA Volleyball. Williams, in an email, confirmed that both coaches and athletes have been affected by Hilton’s withdrawal as a sponsor. “National team members have lost that money from Hilton and all the apparel given by Under Armour,” he wrote. (Under Armour ended its sponsorship arrangement with USA Gymnastics at the end of 2017.)
Beyond the immediate concerns for current national team members, the upheaval in USA Gymnastics could also impact the talent pipeline into the men’s national team for years to come. “I have a kid who is 10 years old. He’s phenomenal and probably could go the same route,” the coach told Deadspin. “But knowing what I know now, am I really going to strive for that excellence, push him down that path?”