Federal lawsuits accuse cheerleading industry of sexually abusing minors
The lawsuits filed in three states describe a culture of sexual violence, drugs and pornography in the sports industry. On the same subject : Introducing the Billiken 2022-23 cheerleading squad. The suits have accused top entertainment organizations of conspiracy.
Federal lawsuits filed in three states paint a grim picture of the competitive game. The six suits describe a drug and pornography culture and accuse some entertainment organizations of failing to protect minors from sexual abuse. sex. This article contains clear information and language. So if you have to leave, that’s fine. We will still be here in 4 minutes. South Carolina Public Radio’s Victoria Hansen reports.
VICTORIA HANSEN, BYLINE: Leading the excitement is falling from the edges of the games to teams that compete fiercely with each other. There are about 4 million competitive surfers across the country, from toddlers to college students.
HANSEN: In this video, the performers from the Rockstar gym in Greenville, S.C., flip, twist and throw each other in the air. The gym won the world championship in 2019. But in September, the facility was suddenly closed after the court accused the owner of indecent behavior, including minors. Bakari Sellers is one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit.
BAKARI SELLERS: I’ve probably seen more porn videos and nude photos than you’d like to think.
HANSEN: The Rockstar boss killed himself a week before the lawsuit. The suit says he knew he was under federal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security — or DHS — which handles child pornography. DHS does not disclose. Since that suit, ten of the Rockstar fans have accused them of drug and alcohol abuse and sexual harassment. The allegations are ten years old. Again, lawyer Bakari Sellers.
USER: What they are dealing with is unimaginable.
HANSEN: In another case in Tennessee, two boys say a coach at Premier Athletics Knoxville West sent them pornographic images and abused them. The gym’s lawyer said that his involvement was wrong, and the teacher was fired. In North Carolina, a teenager accused two instructors at the Extreme Cheer Allstar Gym in Raleigh of sexually abusing her and giving her cocaine. The owner of the gym said he was not happy with the allegations.
In total, 15 victims have come forward with these claims accusing 13 teachers and the manager of the deceased Rockstar. NPR tried to contact the 10 teachers named in the suits. The two deny the allegations. And others were unreachable or unresponsive. It is important to note that no criminal charges have been brought against those accused in these claims. Attorney Alexandra Benevento, who is working with Sellers, said they have received calls from more than 100 people across the country who are also alleging abuse at these gyms and others. But he said, teachers and gyms are not the only ones to blame for abusing young children.
ALEXANDRA BENEVENTO: They were also affected by these companies that not only did nothing but decided that they would protect themselves instead of protecting these children.
HANSEN: Allegedly one of those companies is Varsity. This is the greatest business strength of a passionate leader. Lawyers describe the operation as follows. The gym pays the fee to be with Varsity. And families in Varsity gyms must pay the governing body of the cheer leader, the U.S. All Star Federation. The federation handles complaints. But the suit says Varsity controls the federation. And the federal government has failed to address many abuse reports from parents. According to Jessica Fickling’s lawyer, who is also in the legal team, the university has created a structure to report violence, but the children are not safe.
JESSICA FICKLING: It’s a structure designed to show safety. It just doesn’t work that way.
HANSEN: A university spokesperson denies the allegations. He said that the company does not control the US All Star Federation and they will be expected to investigate allegations of abuse. The federal government did not respond.
For NPR News, I’m Victoria Hansen in South Carolina.
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