Despite scant coverage in the national media, the Cheer Incorporated scandal continues to expand on multiple fronts. Among its most bizarre and concerning developments? Last month’s launch of a GoFundMe campaign that some say highlights the risks of reporting .
On June 5, 2023, a Georgia woman named Meagan Dwyer began soliciting donations as she prepared to defended herself against a recently filed lawsuit in her home state.
“From May 2021 – May 2022 my children were part of an Allstar cheerleading gym in the Savannah, GA area,” Dwyer wrote. “I have been involved in the sport for the prior 22 years – as an athlete, coach, judge, and finally as a parent of athletes for 10-plus years.”
“While at that gym, I witnessed behavior that was, in my opinion, very concerning,” she continued. “After consulting with mentors in cheer, I reported the behavior to USASF, the governing body for All-Star cheer, through their establish(ed) reporting procedure.”
As our audience is aware, the U.S. All-Star Federation (USASF) has come under the microscope in the last year for its alleged role in facilitating a widespread institutional sex abuse scandal – one enabled by years of failed oversight within the industry.
A phalanx of lawsuits followed the spectacular implosion of Greenville, South Carolina-based Rockstar Cheer. This gym 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, FITSNews 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.
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While accusers seized the offensive in the aftermath of the Rockstar saga, in the Georgia case they quickly found themselves on the defensive. According to the GoFundMe page, the Georgia gym owner “sued me, the third-party investigation company, another local gym, and the owner of that gym, for defamation, libel, slander, and tortious interference.”
Britt is the owner and founder of Cheer Savannah – a popular gym based in Pooler, Georgia. She was added to USASF’s temporary ineligible list on September 9, 2022 – just days after Foster’s suicide. She landed on its permanently ineligible list in late February 2023 after a lengthy investigation by USASF.
Sources close to that investigation told FITSNews the allegations against Britt involved multiple violations related to athlete safety and inappropriate behavior. Some of the alleged violations were reportedly captured on Britt’s social media and reported to USASF by multiple parents – with complaints dated back to March of 2022.
On September 10, 2022 – just one day after she was listed on the temporary ineligible list – Britt transferred her business to her husband, Danny Britt, who also became a registered coach and gym owner in the USASF system. Britt also appeared to be flouting USASF’s rules and regulations after she was spotted at the 9 Panel Lowcountry Showdown in Charleston, S.C. in March of 2023 – after she was placed on the permanently ineligible list.
Britt’s lawsuit named Dwyer, Varsity Brands, TNG Consulting (Varsity’s third-party investigative company on complaints relating to athlete protection violations), Megan Yarborough and Savannah Sharks (Yarborough’s gym).
According to the lawsuit, “USASF has gone on a modern-day witch hunt, which includes Cheer Savannah and (Britt), to portray ‘toughness’ of policy and shield itself from liability in future actions.”
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Britt’s attorneys alleged “inaccurate findings” which led to the decision to place her on the permanently ineligible list.
Her lawsuit also claimed the allegations against her came from “competitors, some of whom later retracted their statements and admitted to having been coerced by Savannah Sharks’ coaches.”
Due to ongoing litigation, the plaintiffs in this case have all declined to comment. However, on her GoFundMe page Dwyer claimed “nothing I reported was untrue, and in fact was supported by videos on social media, statements in other publicly available lawsuits brought against her by other cheer families, and even a criminal charge that later settled.”
“Anyone could have reported the same information that I did,” Dwyer said.
Her biggest concern, though, is that “a very serious precedent being set – parents being sued for following the reporting process designed to keep athletes in the sport safe.”
“If this precedent is set now, it is a very real possibility that people will be too afraid to report in the future, opening the door for continued abuse and exposure to unsafe situations and individuals,” she wrote.
USASF’s code of compliance states “retaliation against anyone for participating in the USASF’s processes is prohibited.” It further defines retaliation as any “adverse action against any individual or entity for making a good faith report of a possible code violation to the USASF or other relevant organization.” Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, “threatening, intimidating, harassing, coercing or any other conduct that would discourage a reasonable person from engaging or participating in the USASF’s processes when the action is reasonably related to the report or engagement with the USASF.”
“If this is in their code of compliance, then why are the individuals who reported a coach suddenly responsible for defending themselves against a civil lawsuit filed in retaliation for reporting suspected mistreatment of athletes?” one cheer mom told us.
Britt’s complaint alleges Dwyer “is among the gym mothers who, acting at the direction of Yarbrough and Savannah Sharks, maliciously filed false and misleading reports to USASF which construed (Britt)’s love and nurturing of her athletes, such as hugging and providing encouraging pats, as predatory behavior.”
Wait … aren’t USASF reports supposed to be confidential?
“To extent allowed by law and governing policy, at the request of the reporter, the USASF will not disclose the identifying information of the reporter to any party in the investigation and the report will be treated as a confidential submission,” the group’s policies noted.
In reviewing civil filings against Britt in Georgia, FITSNews found some interesting cases against her. One of them – filed in 2009 by a minor athlete — settled with the details of the agreement sealed. Among the allegations included in the lawsuit (.pdf) were …
- Britt made several false and disparaging remarks about the minor athlete and her family in front of her fellow Cheer Savannah members.
- Britt threatened to “bitch slap” the minor athlete and raised her hand while lunging towards her.
Another filing located in Georgia’s court index showed Britt was arrested in 2016 and charged with simple battery. The arrest warrant (.pdf) was accused of placing her hand over an athlete’s mouth and nose in an attempt to keep the athlete from speaking with “such force it left fingernail impressions and redness.”
Britt was never prosecuted in that case, however.
IN TENNESSEE … AN ARREST AND INDICTMENT
In September of 2022, the mother of a teenage boy (Mary Doe) discovered her son (John Doe) had allegedly been sexually assaulted by his coach – a man named Dominick “Nick” Frizzell – while cheering at a Knoxville, Tennessee-based gym called Premier Athletics. Premier Athletics has facilities in Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan, according to its website.
That same month, a federal lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Memphis, Tennessee, on behalf of Mary Doe, her son and another alleged victim of Frizzell. Similar to the lawsuits filed against Foster and Rockstar Cheer, this pleading contained allegations of systemic sexual abuse within the American cheerleading industry and was the first indication that the abuse was no longer confined to Greenville, South Carolina.
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Two months ago, on May 20, 2023, Frizzell was arrested in Knox County, Tennessee and charged with four counts of solicitation of a minor, nine counts of exploitation of a minor by electronic means, four counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of statutory rape.
According to reporter Liz Kellar of The Knoxville News Sentinel, county criminal court judge Steve Sword denied a request from prosecutor Ashley McDermott to place Frizzell on house arrest. According to Sword, Frizzell didn’t violate his pretrial release order and ordered him to stay away from any place where there might be children. Frizzell is being monitored electronically while out of custody on a $100,000 bond.
He will return to court August 18, 2023 for a status hearing.
IN TEXAS … ‘TEMPORARY’ SANCTIONS FOR POPULAR COACH
As reported previously by FITSNews, a lawsuit was filed in April 2023 in U.S. district court in Texas against the Navarro College cheer team and its legendary coach, Monica Aldama. The cheerleading industry waited with bated breath to see if Aldama would wind up on USASF/ USA Cheer’s unified ineligibility list. Both Navarro and Aldama – who have won numerous championships – were featured in the hit documentary series ‘Cheer,’ which premiered on Netflix in 2020 and has run for two seasons.
On May 1, 2023, Aldama landed on the list. But as of June 15, 2023, she is only listed as ineligible on the USA Cheer list and does not appear on the USASF list. Not exactly unified, huh?
A further curiosity is that Aldama is the only coach whose status details reads, “temporary restrictions pending outcome of investigation – contact with athletes to be supervised by USA Cheer member in good standing.”
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(Via: USA Cheer)
This wording – and Aldama’s removal from the USASF list – has left many wondering whether the popular cheerleading coach is receiving preferential treatment when it comes to protecting the safety of athletes.
The allegations of misconduct by Aldama detailed in the federal lawsuit are serious. Filed on behalf of former Navarro athlete Madi Lane, the complaint alleged a culture of sexual assault and institutional cover-up – recurring themes in many of the prior lawsuits filed over the past year within the competitive cheerleading industry.
Specifically, the pleading alleged Lane was sexually assaulted by a fellow cheerleader, Salvatore “Salvo” Amico, in September of 2021 during a trip to Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas. When Lane told the Navarro team’s unofficial captain – Madi Brum — of the assault, the response she received was allegedly to “drink it off.”
“You just need to drink it off and get your mind off of it … that’s what Navarro girls do – they drink,” Brum is alleged to have told Lane. “We don’t tell anyone. We just keep it to (ourselves).”
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(Via: Navarro College)
When Lane called her coach to report the assault, Aldama allegedly cut her off – and attempted to negotiate her silence.
“Let’s not make this a big deal,” Aldama told Lane, according to the lawsuit. “I want the best for you and I will help you cheer wherever you want.”
Several days later, when Lane formally quit the cheer team, Aldama allegedly told her if she kept quiet, “I’ll make sure you can cheer anywhere you want,” according to the lawsuit.
Lane received a similarly disheartening response when she reported the case to local law enforcement authorities.
“The police discouraged her from (reporting the assault), and informed her that this type of thing happens all the time, that she can report the assault, but that nothing will happen because nothing ever happens,” the lawsuit claimed.
Lane reported the assault anyway. She also filed a report with Navarro College’s Title IX office. However, Title IX coordinator Elizabeth Pillans is said to have told Lane the office did not have the proper paperwork for processing sexual assault allegations – adding “a public hearing is always embarrassing and does more harm to the victim than good.”
When Lane’s family followed up with the Title IX office, Pillans purportedly informed them there was no record of any sexual assault – only “allegations.” She then grilled Lane’s family about video footage of one her friends stealing an energy drink, according to the lawsuit.
As the broader Cheer Incorporated saga continues to unfold across the country, count on FITSNews to keep our readers informed of its very latest developments – including any responses we receive from any of the individuals or institutions named in our reports. As our audience is aware, our news outlet has an open microphone policy which affords anyone accused of wrongdoing – or anyone with an intelligent perspective on this matter – the opportunity to share their views with our audience, unabridged and unfiltered.
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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