VNL investigates: Allegations of abuse by former NDSU cheerleaders against former cheer coach

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) – Former North Dakota State University cheerleaders allege verbal, emotional and physical abuse by former cheer coach, Verona Winkler. Winkler resigned from the position on November 9.

After several months of investigation, NDSU confirmed that Winkler resigned from his position. The reason for stepping down is unclear. Since late August, 10 former cheerleaders have spoken to us about Winkler’s alleged behavior. Some of these allegations date back to 2018, ranging from student-athletes being forced to perform with an injury to making inappropriate comments about students’ weight in front of others.

A former cheerleader from this season has also come forward, claiming Winkler would make threats of violence against them.

“I’ve heard her say things like, I’m going to throw this chair at you, I could stomp on your face right now,” said the former cheerleader, whose identity is being withheld at her request because of her fear of retaliation from Winkler. “Everything from the first camp to the last practice, I definitely had my concerns about her and the things she would tell us and say to us.”

The former cheerleader described a toxic culture created by Winkler, adding that she would call them names and body shame them. When she reached her breaking point this season, her parents got involved and asked the school to help.

“It is hard to imagine that the school or the sports department did not know that this was happening. And to allow that is unacceptable.” said the former cheerleader’s father.

According to the former student-athlete, Winkler would make claims that she was untouchable.

“She would also use intimidation to make sure we didn’t come forward about this kind of thing, she would say things like, I have the school’s lawyers, I don’t even have to pay for them. People have tried to get me fired in the past and I still here.” said the former cheerleader.

Since we began this investigation in late August, we have requested several documents, including Winkler’s personnel file. We have interviewed 10 former NDSU cheerleaders about these allegations against Winkler and requested interviews with former cheer coach, athletic director Matt Larsen and associate athletic director Colleen Heimstead on multiple occasions. Each time was rejected, with the athletic department. denies any knowledge of these allegations against Winkler.

It is worth noting that we asked for interviews on 26 October and 2 November. Winkler resigned on November 9, weeks after we requested interviews. We will continue to try to secure interviews with the university. Tomorrow on Valley News Live, we’ll hear from several former cheerleaders and their allegations against Winkler.

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