So many lawsuits, so few arrests. That’s a familiar refrain from those following the Cheer Incorporated scandal – including many parents frustrated by the apparent lack of accountability involving individuals accused of abusing child athletes. The tides could be turning, though, after charges were filed this week against two individuals in New Jersey.
After a nearly six-month long investigation by the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), 25-year old Jonathan Ryker of Hammonton, N.J. was arrested and charged with sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated criminal sexual contact. He is currently in the Burlington County jail awaiting a bond hearing.
Law enforcement officials told reporter Jim Walsh of The (Cherry Hill) Courier-Post that “an investigation began in August 2022 after Ryker allegedly sent ‘explicit material’ to a minor via social media.”
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Ryker was a popular cheer coach at a Southhampton, New Jersey gym which was once part of the Rockstar Cheer franchise – however the facility rebranded to Access Cheer at the time of the allegations.
Worth noting? The scandal involving Ryker broke right around the time of the spectacular implosion of Greenville, South Carolina-based Rockstar Cheer. Rockstar became the epicenter of the scandal on August 22, 2022 when its late owner and founder, Scott Foster, died by suicide. The day after Foster’s death hit the news, we reported the 49-year-old coach was staring down “a multi-jurisdictional investigation into (among other things) allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls.”
We quickly learned it wasn’t just girls. And it wasn’t just Foster. And most importantly … it wasn’t just Rockstar.
Company spokeswoman Kim Brubeck told the Courier-Post that Ryker was removed from its facility immediately after the allegations became known. Ryker was also placed on a list of temporarily ineligible coaches maintained by the U.S. All Star Federation (USASF).
Along with USA Cheer, USASF is a so-called “oversight” body purportedly protecting child athletes from harm. In reality, though, it has a loophole-laden “reporting” structure which facilitates abuse through a “closed network,” according to one of the recent lawsuits (.pdf) filed against the cheer industry in the aftermath of the Rockstar scandal.
“We stand with all survivors of abuse and will continue to create the safest and most consistent place possible for children to compete in all-star cheerleading,” Brubeck told the paper.
Despite the ongoing investigation, Ryker and his mother – Angel Ryker – were in the process of opening a new cheer facility in New Jersey using similar branding as the now disgraced Rockstar Cheer franchise. Paperwork for Rock Royalty Cheer LLC was filed with New Jersey on March 2, 2023.
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Angel Ryker — whose LinkedIn profile states she is the marketing director for Spirit Brands LTD – claimed her son was wrongly accused by a disgruntled athlete.
However, she was charged this past week with witness tampering in connection with the ongoing investigation.
According to our sources, Angel Ryker allegedly sent multiple social media messages threatening an unknown individual with legal action if they didn’t stop investigating the allegations.
At this time, Jonathan Ryker is still listed as temporarily ineligible by USASF. Angel Ryker has not been added to the list.
As with anyone accused of committing any crime, the Rykers are considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system – or until such time as they may wish to enter some form of allocution in connection with a plea agreement with prosecutors related to any of the charges that may be filed against them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at [email protected].
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