Cheerleaders sexually abused by coaches in SC, lawsuit says

Cheerleaders sexually abused by coaches in SC, lawsuit says

COLUMBIA — Several South Carolina cheerleading coaches — including one coach who recently committed suicide — sexually abused at least six boys and girls and supplied them with drugs and alcohol, a federal lawsuit alleges.

A “coven of sexual predators” surrounded Rockstar Cheer of Greenville for more than a decade, according to one of the attorneys for the alleged victims.

Attorney Bakari Sellers argues that what happened is the result of the same kind of institutional failure seen in the case of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who is serving at least 40 years in prison after to have admitted he molested some of the country’s top gymnasts for years.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday by four girls and two boys who said they were abused by Scott Foster and others associated with Rockstar gyms. It suggests that there may be up to 100 more survivors of the abuse.

“Scott Foster and his allies did their best to intimidate and isolate their targets, making these young people feel alone and somehow responsible. Well, they’re not alone anymore,” attorney Jessica Fickling said in a statement in which he announced the case.

Foster, 49, was found dead in his car at a state park on August 22. He shot himself in the head, the Greenville County Coroner’s Office determined.

“He knew this would be a moment where the light would be shone on what I believe will turn out to be a coven of sexual predators around Rockstar,” said attorney James Bannister.

A number of people either knew Foster was abusing her cheerleaders and ignored it or did not have rules and procedures in place to stop the abuse, the lawsuit states.

Foster and other coaches, not named in the lawsuit, had sex with cheer students, sent and solicited explicit images over social media, gave them alcohol and marijuana in their homes and hotel rooms at cheer competitions and warned them not to tell anyone about it, according to the lawsuit.

“We have a video of Scott Foster on Snapchat with beer bongs drinking with his underage cheerleaders,” Sellers said at a news conference this week.

The suit also names Varsity Brands, which runs cheerleading competitions; U.S. the All Star Federation, which is an organizing and governing body for competitive cheerleading across the country; Bain Capital, which bought Varsity in 2018, among others.

State and federal police are investigating Foster’s Rockstar Cheer and other cheerleading businesses, seizing computers, cell phones and other evidence, Bannister said. He said the investigating agencies asked lawyers not to identify them.

Several state and federal agencies have declined to tell news outlets whether they are involved.

Foster’s wife, Kathy, pledged to work with “everyone involved” to ensure athletes can safely learn and grow.

“I am heartbroken by the recent allegations made by current and former athletes from Rockstar Cheer and other cheer gyms across our community,” she said in a statement released this week. “I hope the survivors seek and receive the support they need. I am sympathetic to their stories.”

Varsity Brands president Bill Seely called the allegations devastating.

“Our hearts are broken right next to yours,” he tweeted Thursday. “The alleged conduct is contrary to everything that the cheer and dance community is intended to represent.”

Bain Capital did not return an email seeking comment.

Rockstar Cheer’s name is on more than a dozen gyms in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arizona.

Ten of the gyms said in a statement this week that they had no connection with Foster and would drop the Rockstar brand.

Foster opened his Greenville gym in 2007, according to his website.

Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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