Beginning in 2016 and continuing through this year, at least 125 young women have accused USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. Now, it appears that USAG lawyers may have paid off one of the sport's biggest stars, McKayla Maroney, to stay silent about her sexual assault at the hands of Nassar.
Maroney's lawyer, John Manly, told ESPN on Wednesday that USA Gymnastics paid Maroney to sign a confidentiality agreement after allegations against Nassar started coming to light.
"They were willing to engage in a systematic cover-up of the entire matter," he told ESPN.
Manly reportedly filed a lawsuit on behalf of Maroney in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday.
Maroney willing entered into the agreement, Manly said, but was asked to do so at a time when she was reeling from the news that Nassar had allegedly assault dozens of other gymnasts as well. "I want people to understand that this kid had no choice. She couldn't function. She couldn't work," Manly told ESPN. He claims that USAG was "willing to sacrifice" the well-being of one of their stars in order to keep Nassar's abuse under wraps.
Maroney broke the terms of the confidentiality agreement in October, when she tweeted "I was molested by Dr. Larry Nassar, the team doctor for the U.S. Women's National Gymnastics Team, and the Olympic Team. #MeToo."
At the time, USAG released a statement in support of Maroney and other gymnasts who had spoken out about the abuse.
"USA Gymnastics admires the courage of those, like McKayla Maroney, who have come forward to share their personal experiences with sexual abuse. Because of their strength in coming forward, predators can be held accountable for their actions. We, like so many others, are outraged and disgusted by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused. We are sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career," USAG said in a statement shared with Refinery29.
Manly, who was not involved with the negotiations on the confidentiality agreement, told ESPN that such agreements are illegal in the state of California. His lawsuit names the United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, Nassar and his full-time employer, Michigan State, as defendants, and claims that the organization violated the law by asking Maroney to sign the agreement in the first place.
Earlier this month, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison over child pornography charges.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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