Gymnast Jennifer Sey keeps getting canceled for speaking

In 2008, Jennifer Sey faced a backlash after the 1986 USA Gymnastics National Champion was released. Chalked Up, the first published memoir about widespread abuse in sports. Her new book, Levi’s Unbuttoned: The Awakened Mob Took My Job, But Gave Me A Voice, appears to be a follow-up to that story, detailing Seya’s ouster from the jeans juggernaut—where she was set to become its first CEO—after she fell out again earlier this year. This time she didn’t speak out against bullying in sports; she spoke against closing schools due to COVID-19.

In November, ReasonSey’s Billy Binion spoke by phone about what led to her new book—and why the lifelong Democrat is now politically homeless.

Q: You were one of the first to speak in detail about abuse in gymnastics. It was not well received. How do you relate that experience to the experience when you talked about closing schools?

A: After [former U.S. women’s gymnastics physician] Larry Nassar’s arrest, the gymnastics community kind of reassessed and then rallied around me, kind of pretending it always had. Which was not the case, but I welcome anyone to the fight. I kept reminding myself that when you say a hard thing that people don’t want to hear, the response can be, “You’re lying.” But the truth still wins in the end.

Q: Do you feel that happened here?

A: I think the truth has come out in that there seems to be a consensus that schools have been closed for too long and that tremendous damage has been done. But there seems to be no acknowledgment or accountability that someone made those choices. To some extent, USA gymnastics has had to own up to its mistakes. I think that’s the missing piece now with the school closings. We have not reached the stage of recognition and responsibility that this was a policy choice based on public health, made by local government leaders, influenced by the teachers’ union.

Q: How do you reconcile these things: that a consensus was reached in your favor, but that you still lost your career?

A: The response from Levi’s has usually been that they support my advocacy of open schools, but they have not supported my rejection of public health. Those two things are contradictory. These are actually word games. But I am not the great tragedy in this situation; these are children. What I am most committed to is continuing to push forward in normalizing free speech and open debate and dissent. Because if we could have talked publicly about the harmfulness of closing schools, I feel we could have made a completely different decision and opened schools earlier. That didn’t happen.

Q: You were a Democrat for 30 years. Now you say you are politically homeless. How does that feel, and how do you respond to those who say you must be a Republican now because you’re not a Democrat?

A: I think the Democratic Party has greatly underestimated how many people like me exist: lifelong Democrats who have watched their basic rights just to move freely and send their children to school stripped away for over a year, which seems to me to be the most undemocratic thing I can fathom. . I did not register as a Republican. I have problems on both sides. The idea that if you talk to someone then you automatically have all of their beliefs is ridiculous. And that kind of defines this moment for me.

Q: What do you think people get most wrong about you?

A: That I was somehow possessed and now I’m this alt-right, QAnon conspiracy theorist. I have very logically challenged and questioned policies that have now been shown to be incredibly harmful. I stayed true to what I thought the Democratic Party stood for. I don’t think I’ve changed.

This interview has been condensed and edited for style and clarity.

This article originally appeared in print under the title “Jennifer Sey keeps getting fired for speaking out”.

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