More and more reports are being filed regarding sexual assault and negligence within cheerleader organizations. Such organizations must be held liable for fostering unsafe conditions for young athletes.
Osborne & Francis, PLLC has filed a complaint for a multi-district lawsuit (MDL) against various cheerleading organizations and actors in connection with multiple allegations of sexual assault, negligent security, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other violations.
Many of the nation’s most prominent cheerleading organizations are being called into question regarding their ineffective safety policies, lack of enforcement, and failure to ensure the safety of program participants. The lawsuit reveals a grim picture of competitive cheerleading, where young athletes have been exposed to a culture of sexual assaults, drug and alcohol use, and pornography.
Survivors of cheerleader sexual abuse may be entitled to significant compensation for the losses and damages caused by such negligent conduct. In addition, legal action can have the effect of uncovering more abuses and forcing cheerleader organizations to improve their standards and policies regarding sexual assault.
At Osborne & Francis, we care deeply about the safety, health, and well-being of the younger generations in our communities. If you or a loved one have been affected by cheerleader sexual assault, contact us at (561) 293-2600 to learn more about your legal rights. We have a proven track record of holding large organizations accountable for the harm caused by their negligence.
Who Is Being Named in the MDL Complaint?
Attorneys Greg Francis and J. Robert Bell of Osborne & Francis, along with attorneys from Strom Law Firm, LLC, are representing the plaintiffs in the case.
Several parties are being named as defendants in the complaint, among them the most prominent and influential youth cheerleading companies active in the country. Defendants named in the lawsuit include:
- Varsity Brands, LLC
- Varsity Spirit, LLC
- Varsity Brands Holding Company, Inc.
- U.S. All Star Federation, Inc. (d/b/a U.S. All Star Federation)
- USA Federation for Sport Cheering (d/b/a USA Cheer)
- Charlesbank Capital Partners, LP
- Bain Capital, LP
- Champion Elite Legacy, LLC
- Various individual perpetrators of sexual misconduct
What this tells us is that these are not isolated incidents happening randomly at cheerleading events and camps. These are systematic abuses that are happening due to negligent policies, lack of supervision and chaperoning, and failure to monitor adult participants in the programs.
Even more concerning is that a significant percentage of sexual assault cases are not reported to the police or authorities. This means that there are likely many other unreported instances of sexual assault happening in connection with cheerleading organizations. Thus, complaints such as the one filed by Osborne & Francis are crucial to uncovering and dismantling these structures that facilitate sexual abuse.
If you or your child were participating in programs connected with any of these organizations, and experienced sexual assault or abuse, contact us promptly at (561) 293-2600. We can set up a private, completely confidential consultation to review your options.
What Allegations Are Being Brought Against the Defendants?
Many allegations are being brought against the defendants named in the litigation. These include direct instances of sexual misconduct by individuals, such as:
- Non-consensual sexual abuse and assaults
- Indecent exposure and nudity
- Inappropriate touching and contact during cheer moves
- Exposure to pornography
- Inappropriate romantic relationships between minor athletes and adult staff
- Encouraging/providing access to drugs and alcohol at competitions and events
Sexual assaults can often occur because cheerleaders may be engaged in one-on-one interactions with coaches and other adults in isolated places. During these sessions, parents and other team members may not be allowed to attend. For some events, coaches might even travel alone across state lines with a cheerleader or stay with them overnight in the same hotel room with no chaperone present.
Additional Allegations Against Cheer Organizations
Besides these individual actions, allegations are being brought against the various organizations for allowing these types of abuses to occur in the first place. Allegations of organizational negligence include:
- Failing to conduct thorough background checks on adult staff such as coaches, cheer choreographers, and supervisors
- Concealing known instances of sexual abuse and failing to report them to authorities
- Allowing adults to remain on site and interact with minor athletes even after they were found to be sexually assaulting cheerleaders
- Encouraging a “party culture” at camps and events where alcohol and illegal drugs were readily available
- Creating an unchaperoned environment for young athletes while away from their parents
- Failing to provide sufficient monitoring and security at cheerleading practices, gyms, overnight camps, tournaments, and competitions
Investigation into the safety policies of these cheerleading companies has revealed significant deficiencies in terms of preventing sexual assaults. For instance, some companies fired coaches for issues such as cheerleaders having hair bows that were too big; in the meantime, other coaches who were sexually assaulting cheerleaders were allowed to remain on staff.
These types of issues emphasize the need to hold the defendants liable, and to require policies that focus more strictly on preventing sexual assaults.
Are you concerned that your child or relative may have been sexually assaulted while at a cheerleading event or practice? Ensure them that it’s not their fault, and provide them with gentle care and support. Contact a compassionate and experienced lawyer who can help you understand the process of obtaining justice.
What Damages Can Be Pursued in Cheerleader Sexual Assault Lawsuits?
While no amount of financial awards can undo something as egregious as sexual assault, it is important that survivors of cheerleading sexual assault be compensated to the full extent under the law. Even a single occurrence of sexual assault can lead to physical, emotional, and psychological damage that persists even into adulthood.
Damages in a cheerleader sexual assault lawsuit can cover:
- Medical treatment: Medical care can be costly and sometimes ongoing
- Therapy and counseling: These might not always be covered by standard insurance
- Pain and suffering: Damages may cover psychological and emotional stresses
- Punitive damages: These are a type of damages intended to punish wrongdoers and deter them from future abuses
- Other costs: These can include legal fees and reimbursement for cheerleading activity expenses
The losses and challenges caused by sexual assault can create heavy burdens for the survivor and their family. A damages award or settlement can help alleviate these stresses and compensate them for what they have gone through.
Breaking the Cycle of Cheerleader Sexual Abuse
The MDL complaint also describes a “symbiotic relationship” between gyms and coaches to provide a guaranteed stream of revenue from young athletes and their families.
For instance, gyms might pay dues to be affiliated with prominent cheerleading organizations like Varsity. Being associated with such groups might help bolster their reputation among young cheerleaders. In turn, the gyms and coaches would provide a replenishing group of underage athletes, guaranteeing income for Varsity.
With this type of structure, sexual assaults and abuses are allowed to run rampant year after year if the organization's safety policies are weak, and if little is done to enforce them. Cheer organizations that fail to recognize and address reports of abuse are essentially allowing dangerous conditions to exist in a systematic and institutionally organized way.
This is why it is important to be watchful for signs of abuse, report suspicious activity, and contact the appropriate authorities if it appears that abuse is taking place. Hiring a lawyer and pursuing legal action helps to identify wrongdoers, and further inform the public about potential dangers associated with cheerleading organizations.
In this way, legal action can be leveraged to prevent future sexual assaults from occurring, and can serve as advocacy for better safety standards for youth organizations.
Contact a Lawyer if You Need Representation
There are an estimated 4 million competitive cheerleaders across the country, ranging from young children to college athletes. With the way cheerleading groups are structured and monitored, conditions may allow sexual assaults to occur in ongoing, cyclical patterns.
Also, sexual abuse survivors may often be hesitant to speak about their experiences due to feelings of confusion, embarrassment, or shame. This means that the full number of cheerleading sexual assault incidents may not be fully documented or accounted for. Filing legal action can help shine light on other abuses and help stop more cases from happening.
If you or a loved one have been impacted in any way by sexual assault in connection with cheerleading activities, or if you have any questions, contact Osborne & Francis at (561) 293-2600 to set up a no-cost, completely confidential consultation to discuss more. We are at the forefront of the movement to hold these groups accountable and ensure survivors receive the legal remedies they need.