UT dismisses cheerleader involved in Premier Athletics, Varsity Spirit abuse scandal
Several attorneys announced a Tennessee lawsuit in the ongoing national athlete abuse scandal surrounding Memphis-based Varsity Spirit Tuesday.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WVLT) - Several attorneys announced a Tennessee lawsuit in the ongoing national athlete abuse scandal surrounding Memphis-based Varsity Spirit Tuesday.
Attorneys filed the federal lawsuit in Memphis, bringing to light multiple survivors and naming new abusers, including Tennessee-based Premier Athletics and athlete and coach Dominick Frizzell, a cheerleader at the University of Tennessee, representatives said. The suit alleges that inappropriate behavior, such as the sending of messages and pictures to minor athletes, happened in Premier’s gym until September of 2022.
Specifically, the suit states that Frizzell was allowed to “emotionally, physically, and sexually exploit and abuse Defendant Premier’s young athletes, all while under the control and putative authority of Defendants Varsity Brands, LLC.” In doing so, the attorneys allege that Premier Athletics and Varsity failed to create a safe environment for their athletes.
WVLT News reached out to the university, and officials confirmed that Frizzell was suspended from the cheer program on Sept. 16 and dismissed on Sept. 27.
The lawsuit alleges that Premier Athletics and other companies allowed drugs and alcohol to be given to minors, and adults to send sexually explicit messages to minors.
“We are extremely disappointed that Premier Athletics Knoxville West was inaccurately implicated in a press conference regarding a lawsuit that was filed in Memphis, Tennessee,” officials with Woolf, McClane, Bright, Allen & Carpenter, the law firm representing Premier Athletics, said in a statement.
The statement said the company was made aware of claims involving Frizzell sending inappropriate pictures to an athlete in June of 2022. “No copies or screenshots of the photographs were provided to substantiate this claim.” read the statement, adding that it was immediately reported to local law enforcement and USASF.
Knox County Sheriff’s Office officials confirmed there is an ongoing investigation into Frizzell, but couldn’t provide further details.
Frizzell’s attorney Don Bosch said they are denying all of the allegations that have been brought against Frizzell.
The attorneys for the victims include civil rights attorney Bakari Sellers, Jessica Fickling, and Alexandra Benevento (Strom Law Firm) as well as Tennessee State Rep. John Ray Clemmons and J. Michael Clemons.
“This lawsuit makes it clear that we’re not talking about some isolated incident in South Carolina,” said Sellers. “This is a nationwide epidemic of abuse that infects all of competitive cheerleading enabled and concealed by Varsity Spirit, the U.S. All Star Federation (USASF) and Bain Capital.”
Varsity Spirit has been working on expanding, according to a release, building a new headquarters and investing in uniform providers.
“We’re talking about a financial empire based on physical, emotional and sexual abuse,” said Clemmons. “As these companies are announcing hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments to grow that empire, these young athletes are being abused and, instead of protecting them, Varsity Spirit, USASF and USA Cheer either ignored and dismissed these allegations or quietly allowed the abusers to relocate to a new gym or facility without parents knowing the truth.”
“This is big and it’s getting bigger,” said Benevento. “Our clients deserve justice and we’re going to make sure they get it.”
This comes as Rockstar Cheer in South Carolina faces allegations from six young athletes that claim they were abused.
Cobb County, GA authorities originally told media outlets that they were investigating the Stingray All Stars organization in Cobb County after it was alleged that there’s been sexual abuse happening there. When WVLT News reached out to the Cobb County Police Department, they said they could not confirm what entity was being investigated, only that there was an investigation into minor sexual abuse.
Representatives for Stingray denied the claims. Stingray also sent a notice to parents, letting them know they had “information brought to our attention on Monday evening that alleged inappropriate conduct between a 2019-2021 adult Steel Athlete Nick Frizzell.” The notice is below:
Stingray representatives also provided another notice, which again denied the allegations, saying no disorderly conduct happened at their training facility.
“At no time did any allegation brought to us include misconduct at our training facility,” the notice read.
You can read the full lawsuit against Premier Athletics and Frizzell below.
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