COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Multiple cheerleading coaches in South Carolina — including a coach who recently killed himself — sexually abused at least six boys and girls and provided 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 lawyers for the alleged victims.
Attorney Bakari Sellers contends that what happened is a 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 a minimum of 40 years in prison after admitting that he molested some of the nation’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 affiliated with Rockstar gyms. It suggests there could 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 announcing the suit.
Foster, 49, was found dead in his car at a state park on Aug. 22. He shot himself in the head, the Greenville County Coroner’s Office ruled.
“He knew this was going to be a moment when the light was going to be shined on what I think will turn out to be a coven of sexual predators surrounding Rockstar,” said attorney James Bannister.
A number of people either knew Foster was abusing his cheer students and ignored it or did not have rules and procedures in place to stop the abuse, the lawsuit says.
Foster and other coaches not named in the lawsuit had sex with cheer students, sent and asked for explicit photos over social media, gave them alcohol and marijuana at their homes and in hotel rooms at cheer competitions and warned them to not tell anyone about it, according to the lawsuit.
“We have 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; the U.S. All Star Federation, which is an organizing and governing body for competitive cheerleading across the country; Bain Capital, which bought Varsity in 2018, and others.
State and federal police are investigating Foster’s Rockstar Cheer and other cheerleading outlets, seizing computers, cellphones and other evidence, Bannister said. He said the investigating agencies asked lawyers not to identify them.
Several state and federal agencies have refused to tell news outlets whether they are involved.
Foster’s wife, Kathy, promised to cooperate with “all involved” to make sure 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 are seeking and receive the support they need. I am sympathetic to their stories.”
Varsity Brands President Bill Seely called the accusations devastating.
“Our hearts are broken right alongside yours,” he tweeted Thursday. “The alleged conduct runs counter to everything the cheer and dance community is intended to represent.”
Bain Capital didn’t 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 be dropping the Rockstar brand name.
Foster opened his Greenville gym in 2007, according to his website.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.