MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An alleged sexual abuse scandal involving cheerleaders has spread to a Memphis-based athletic apparel company that sponsored cheer tournaments.
Attorneys for the defendants allege teenage athletes were physically, emotionally, and sexually abused while Varsity Spirit, the U.S. All Star Federation (USASF), and Bain Capital allowed it to happen. They filed a lawsuit in South Carolina earlier in September.
The lawsuit alleges Memphis-based Varsity Spirit was involved in a criminal conspiracy with the other entities while collecting billions in profits.
“They built a facility in Memphis on the back of victims,” attorney Bakari Sellers said at a press conference at the federal courthouse in Memphis on Tuesday. “Varsity allowed sex abuse and they didn’t care.”
Watch the full press conference below:
Sellers said he expects to see criminal charges in the case.
“Those who care about children and the safety of children to be in our priority to make a statement to say not in the state of Tennessee and not in these others states where this unfortunate tragic situation has taken place, but we’re standing up,” said Tennessee Rep. John Ray Clemmons.
Attorneys are seeking relief for multiple survivors, and named abusers including Knoxville-based Premier Athletics as well as athlete and coach Dominick Frizzell.
Frizzell, a University of Tennessee cheerleader, was dismissed from the organization after accusations of sexual abuse, our Knoxville news partner WATE learned.
“Nick Frizzell joined the University of Tennessee Spirit Program for the 2022-23 academic year. He was suspended from participation in all spirit activities on Sept. 16 and was formally dismissed from the program on Sept. 27,” said Tom Satkowiak, associate athletics director of communications for the University of Tennessee.
“Nick Frizzell is in and out of this gym hosting cheer camps around children while Premier and others knew of reports of sexual misconduct and grotesque sexual abuse of children,” said attorney Alexandra Benevento.
Premier Knoxville released a statement in regards to the lawsuit, saying in part:
The health and safety of athletes that train at its facilities is extremely important to Premier Knoxville. Premier Knoxville has taken all of the appropriate and required steps based on the reports it received and it will continue to protect the health and safety of its athletes.
In the statement, Premier Knoxville claims the company that owns it didn’t own any gyms until August 6, 2021, and the allegations do not pertain to their current ownership.
They also claim that an athlete told an employee on June 26 of this year that he had received inappropriate photos from Frizzell but no copies of the photos were provided to support the claim and it was the first time they received reports about the misconduct.
Premier Knoxville further stated that the Knoxville West location was informed that a different athlete, referred to as John Doe 1, had a “physical relationship” with Frizzell but it was never reported to Premier Knoxville, his parents, or his representatives. They say the claim was reported to the USASF and law enforcement the same day.
Donald Bosch, an attorney who is representing Nick Frizzell, also addressed the lawsuit saying, “This is the first time we have seen this 71 page lawsuit and are reviewing it. We have no comment at this time.”
WREG is contacting Varsity Spirit for a statement on the suit. This story will be updated with the company’s comment.
Read more about this case here.