OPINION: Anyone who looks back fondly on U.S. Gymnastics’ era of abuse needs to sit down and shut up.
The “back in my day” crowd never dies. It’s reproduced generation after generation, filled with members who diminish and dismiss “kids these days.”
There’s no shortage of complaints from the old school. Life was harder but they’re better off as a result: tougher, smarter and more disciplined. They understood concepts like decency and order, had better fashion sense and possessed a superior work ethic. The old way was always right even when grownups were abusive. Eff your feelings.
That must’ve been MyKayla Skinner’s mindset recently when she criticized the gymnasts — except Simone Biles – on Team USA’s 2024 Olympics squad. Skinner, who despite her first name has zero melanin, won a silver medal in the 2020 Tokyo Games and didn’t try out this time. At 27 years old, she’s ancient for a gymnast, and she sounded like a geezer late last month on a since-deleted two-hour YouTube livestream:
“Besides Simone, I feel like the talent and the depth just isn’t like what it used to be,” Skinner said. “Obviously a lot of girls don’t work as hard.” 
Biles is the same age as Skinner and the two go way back, finishing first and second, respectively, as teenagers at the 2015 American Cup. If Skinner’s criticism was based on ageism alone, that would be easier to understand. Instead, she suggested the current crop is weak because they didn’t suffer the types of abuse that wracked gymnastics before reforms were instituted a decade ago.
“The girls just don’t have the work ethic,” Skinner said, partially blaming the U.S. Center for SafeSport. “Coaches can’t get on athletes, and they have to be really careful what they say, which in some ways is really good. But at the same time, to get where you need to be in gymnastics, you do have to be a little aggressive and a little intense.”
She reminds me of Divine 9 members who complain as new pledges “skate” into the organization without absorbing the physical and mental abuse of past eras. Who cares about the deaths, trauma and lawsuits? We can’t be soft out here!
To no surprise, Skinner was torched on social media for her obtuseness. She initially posted on Instagram Stories that her comments were misinterpreted, a ridiculous defense for such straightforward remarks. She said her take “wasn’t always necessarily about the current team,” but more about the gymnasts at her own gym. As if they don’t reserve the same respect as Olympic athletes. 
Biles (apparently) clapped back with succinct sufficiency, mentioning no names but leaving no doubt who she was talking about. “Not everyone needs a mic and a platform,” the four-time Olympic gold medalist wrote last week via Instagram Threads. 

That’s another difference between Skinner and Biles. The retired gymnast should take a seat and concentrate on raising her 9-month-old daughter, while the GOAT continues to make history and stand up for athletes’ rights. 
At the Tokyo Games in July 2021, Biles was an advocate for mental health when she withdrew from competition due to the “twisties,” a phenomenon when gymnasts lose spatial awareness in midair. A few months later, she was an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, testifying against Larry Nassar on Capitol Hill; the disgraced physician’s years-long abuse was disguised as medical treatment and eventually led to SafeSport’s creation.
In a formal apology after the so-called clarification, Skinner said her judgment was clouded by experiences under legendary U.S. Olympic coach Marta Karolyi, who allegedly tormented gymnasts. Cynics accused Skinner of playing the victim card but some empathy is in order.
“Upon reflection, I was comparing the ‘Marta Era’ to the current era,” Skinner posted on Instagram. “I am coming to terms that I have not fully dealt with the emotional and verbal abuse I endured under Marta that perhaps led to my hurtful comments.”
What’s that thing about hurt people hurting people? 
She wouldn’t be the first person who suffered abuse and then – subconsciously or not – defended abusers’ point of view. She might think it helped her become an Olympic medalist, so it wasn’t all bad then and it can’t be all bad now. Suck it up.
That was the standard approach for generation after generation in sports, Greek-letter organizations, the military and other endeavors. But then more enlightened views took hold and we realized it don’t take all that.
Being old school is fine, to a point. Skinner’s problem was being too old a fool.
And that’s not cool at all.
Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at blackdoorventures.com/deron.