COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – A lawsuit alleging rampant sexual abuse of underage athletes at a competitive cheerleading gym in South Carolina has been amended to name six other coaches as defendants and three other 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, located in the northwestern corner of the state. Lawyers for the accusers say the sexual abuse at the gym could go back two decades and there could be as many as 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 a minimum of 40 years in prison after admitting to molesting some top gymnasts. of the nation for years.
None of Rockstar’s 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 accusers’ attorneys, James Bannister, said earlier this month. He said agencies have asked lawyers not to identify them.
According to the lawsuit, the abuses ranged from rape and forced oral sex to harassment and pressure on 13-year-old children to send naked pictures of themselves to coaches. The lawsuit also details instances where coaches have doused students with alcohol and cannabis in their homes and hotel rooms during cheerleading competitions.
The allegations initially centered on the gym’s founder, Scott Foster, who was found dead in his car on Aug. 22. The coroner ruled that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Kathy Foster, his widow, announced earlier this month that Rockstar Cheerleading and Dance was closing “indefinitely.”
“While this was a difficult decision, I believe it is the best option 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 and every one of them. I ask for privacy for my children and those personally affected at this difficult time.”
The amended lawsuit details several cases alleging athletes were abused outside of South Carolina at events sanctioned by Varsity Spirit, which runs the competitions, and the United States All Star Federation, the governing body of the country’s cheerleaders.
Varsity Spirit president Bill Seely said in a Sept. 1 statement that the allegations detailed “aberrant criminal and predatory conduct” and were “devastating to hear.” In an Aug. 30 statement, the USASF said the organization was “devastated to learn of allegations of potential abuse.” The statement declined to comment on developments while law enforcement investigations are ongoing and reiterated that members should report any allegations.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys said they expect to file more lawsuits naming other perpetrators at other gymnasiums across the country.
“We are talking about repeated serious abuse that has been reported to everyone, including the Greenville County Sheriff’s Department,” attorney Bakari Sellers said in a statement. “To Varsity Spirit, USASF and Bain Capital, these survivors didn’t matter. Their checks worked. They did nothing to stop this abuse then and they are doing nothing now.”
James Pollard is a corps member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places reporters on local newsrooms to report on hidden issues.