COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – A lawsuit alleging rampant sexual abuse of underage athletes at a competitive cheerleading gym in South Carolina has been amended to name six more coaches as defendants and three more accusers.
The accusers – now seven women and two men – say in the amended federal lawsuit Thursday that they were sexually abused by coaches at Rockstar Cheerleading and Dance in Greenville, which is in the northwest corner of the state. Lawyers for the accused alleged that he may have been sexually abused at the gym two decades ago and that there could be 100 other victims who have not come forward.
One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Bakari Sellers, compared the case to that of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who is serving at least 40 years in prison after admitting he molested some of the best gyms in the nation. years.
None of the Rockstar coaches have been charged and The Associated Press is not naming them. State and federal law enforcement agencies are investigating the gym and other cheerleading outlets and have seized computers, cell phones and other evidence, one of the accused’s lawyers, James Bannister, said earlier this month. He said the agencies have asked lawyers not to identify them.
According to the law, the abuse ranged from rape and forced oral sex to molestation and pressure on children as young as 13 to send nude photos of themselves to coaches. The law also details cases where coaches have given alcohol and cannabis to students in their homes and hotel rooms during cheerleading competitions.
The allegations centered on the founder of the gym, Scott Foster, who was found dead in his car on August 22. The coroner determined he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Kathy Foster, his widow, announced earlier this month that Rockstar Cheerleading and Dance would close “indefinitely”.
“Although this was a difficult decision, I believe it was the best choice under the circumstances,” Foster said in a statement reported by local NBC affiliate WYFF. “Over the past 15 years, our incredible athletes have worked hard to build a winning legacy. and I will always be extremely proud of each of them. I ask for privacy for my children and those who have been personally affected during this difficult time.”
The amended suit details several instances in which she alleges athletes outside of South Carolina were abused at events sanctioned by Varsity Spirit, which runs competitions, and the US All Star Federation, the country’s governing body for cheerleading.
The Varsity Spirit President Bill Seely said in a Sept. 1 statement that the allegations detailed “abusive, predatory behavior” and were “serious to hear.” In an Aug. 30 statement, USASF said the organization was “deeply devastated to learn of allegations of potential abuse.” The statement declined to comment on developments and ongoing law enforcement investigations and reiterated that members should report any allegations.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they expect to file more lawsuits naming other perpetrators at other gyms around the country.
“We’re talking about repeated, serious abuse that was reported to everyone including the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department,” attorney Bakari Sellers said in a statement. “In the case of Varsity Spirit, the USASF and Bain Capital, these survivors did not matter. Did their checks. They did nothing to stop this abuse then and they are doing nothing now.”
James Pollard is a member of the corps for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national nonprofit service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on issues that are not being covered.