The snowballing allegations around Rockstar Cheer and Dance Inc. hit a significant new milestone Sept. 15, when six former coaches were accused of sexual abuse in an amended federal lawsuit.
Where previous legal filings and press releases had alluded to abuse by multiple coaches, only Scott Foster, the deceased owner of the Greer-based competitive cheerleading gym, was identified by name.
Now, the widening inquiry has ensnared other individuals.
The amended lawsuit is the second of two to allege Foster sexually abused minors and young adults. The first, filed Aug. 31, accuses Foster of having "persuaded" an unidentified underage girl who trained in his gym to have sex with him. The second, amended Sept. 15, makes further allegations against Foster, in addition to accusing coaches Kenny Feeley, Josh Guyton, Nathan Allan Plank, Christopher Hinton, Traevon Black and Peter Holley of abuse.
Foster and the other coaches are accused of a range of misconduct, including rape, providing drugs to athletes, groping and inappropriate touching, and the exchange of sexual images. In several instances, the alleged abuse occurred when the anonymous plaintiffs were minors, according to the lawsuits.
In addition, both lawsuits allege institutional failures by national cheerleading organizations responsible for safeguarding the welfare of young athletes. The second, amended lawsuit goes further, attacking the business model and governance of competitive cheer itself.
Foster died by suicide last month, according to the Greenville County Coroner's Office. Rockstar Cheer and Dance announced it would close its doors "indefinitely" on Sept. 7 in a written statement released by Foster's widow, Kathy Foster.
Here's what you need to know as the story unfolds.
Who was Scott Foster?
► At the time of his death, Scott Foster was a competitive cheerleading coach of national renown. His training center, Rockstar Cheer, was home to 14 all-star cheerleading teams that have earned medals at the most prestigious competitions in the sport. Located in Greer, the gym is referred to as Rockstar Cheer Greenville.
► A native of Kentucky, Foster cheered as a student at the University of Louisville and began coaching in 1996, according to Rockstar's website. He moved to Greenville in 1999 and founded Rockstar Cheer & Dance Inc. in 2007 with his wife, Kathy.
"We weren't just striving to be the best in our area of South Carolina, we wanted to do something that would be known as one of the best in our industry," he said on his website. "We wanted Rockstar Cheer to be a family, not just a business."
► Originally interested in a career in law enforcement, Foster found himself drawn to competitive cheerleading instead, he said.
"I wanted a career doing something I would love each and every day," he wrote online. "What really drove me was working with young people and making a positive impact on their lives."
► In addition to his work at Rockstar, Foster coached cheerleading on an advisory basis at high schools in the Upstate.
What is Scott Foster accused of?
► Multiple unidentified plaintiffs in two lawsuits have accused Foster of a range of sexual misconduct toward minors. While one plaintiff is listed in the first lawsuit that was filed, nine others are listed in the second lawsuit, and more plaintiffs could ultimately join the legal action, lawyers said.
► The first lawsuit alleges Foster sexually abused an unidentified girl after she was promoted to Rockstar's "top tier team." Foster, the complaint says, exchanged sexual messages and images with the child, who remains a minor, and "persuaded" the girl "into performing various sexual acts" with him on at least 10 occasions in Greenville and at competitions.
Foster is also accused of providing alcohol to the minor "in an effort to further persuade" her "to perform sexual acts with him."
The lawsuit was filed jointly by Chappell, Smith & Arden and Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey.
Allegations: Lawsuit claims Rockstar Cheer founder Scott Foster 'persuaded' girl into sex
More allegations: New Rockstar Cheer lawsuit alleges sexual abuse, attacks competitive cheerleading culture
► The second lawsuit contains similarly graphic allegations of "child sexual exploitation," accusing Foster of exchanging sexual images with female and male minors, providing drugs and alcohol to athletes under his care, and engaging in a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old.
The lawsuit was filed by Strom Law Firm.
► Some of the alleged victims in the second lawsuit trained at Foster's gym in Greer. In other cases, Foster connected with athletes via social media, according to the complaint. In at least one case, the suit claims, this connection led to sexual encounters at multiple competitions.
Who are the other defendants, and what are they accused of?
► The two lawsuits identify multiple defendants. In addition to Foster's estate and Rockstar Cheer & Dance Inc., both name the United States All Star Federation, a nonprofit governing body for competitive cheerleading, and Varsity Spirit LLC, a governing organization for competitive cheerleading competitions.
The complaints allege failures by Rockstar, USASF and Varsity to protect the athletes under Foster's care.
► The first lawsuit claims Rockstar, USASF and Varsity had received complaints about Foster's "inappropriate behavior" before and during the misconduct toward the plaintiff yet failed to take appropriate action.
► The second lawsuit also alleges those defendants were aware of "serious and disturbing allegations" against not only Scott Foster but "many of the Varsity coaches." It depicts Foster's alleged behavior as a symptom of a much wider problem within competitive cheerleading.
► In addition to Foster's estate, Rockstar Cheer & Dance Inc., USASF, Varsity Spirit, and USA Cheer, the governing body for all disciplines of cheerleading, the suit named as defendants Jeff Webb, Varsity's founder, and corporate entities Charlesbank Capital Partners and Bain Capital.
According to the lawsuit, Bain bought Varsity Spirit from Charlesbank in 2018.
The complaint alleges the defendants created and operated an exploitative system with little accountability that "propagated a system of young-athlete abuse against innocent victims."
► The second complaint also includes multiple allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by other coaches at Rockstar, named publicly for the first time - Kenny Feeley, Josh Guyton, Nathan Allan Plank, Christopher Hinton, Traevon Black and Peter Holley. These coaches are accused of rape, the provision of drugs and alcohol to underage athletes, and the creation and dissemination of "obscene materials involving minors." All are believed to have left Rockstar before Foster's death.
► A public-relations firm representative emailed a statement to reporters on Sept. 21 on behalf of Feeley and his family.
"Although we have not yet been formally notified, it has come to our attention that Kenny has been named, among others, in a wide-ranging civil lawsuit alleging a past instance of improper conduct, at some point in his career, by an anonymous individual," the statement reads. "We are dismayed and frankly stunned by these accusations, and to be clear, the claim is categorically false.
"As always − we remain steadfast in our convictions as long-standing advocates for greater safety, transparency and protections for all athletes in cheerleading, while we vigorously defend Kenny's reputation against this unsubstantiated claim and related inaccuracies and mistruths."
A spokesperson for Feeley told The Greenville News that Feeley was never employed by Rockstar Cheer or Carolina All-Stars but instead worked as an "outside trainer a handful of times over the past 20 years."
► The Greenville News reached out to Traevon Black on social media after the amended complaint was released. Black said he was unaware of the allegations and subsequently deactivated his social-media account.
Is law enforcement investigating these allegations against Rockstar Cheer?
► No law enforcement agency has publicly acknowledged an investigation into the misconduct described in the complaints.
► However, in a news release on Aug. 24, Storm Law Firm said Foster "was the subject of a multi-jurisdictional investigation being led by the Department of Homeland Security into allegations of sexual misconduct."
Reached by The Greenville News, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security would neither confirm nor deny any such investigation.
► Strom attorneys also claimed to have knowledge of a state-level investigation at a press conference but declined to name the agency involved. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said it does not have an active investigation into the case.
► Locally, Rockstar Cheer's Greer location falls within the jurisdiction of the Greenville County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office was not actively investigating Foster when he died, according to spokesperson Lt. Ryan Flood, though it has opened an investigation into his death.
Flood also said the Sheriff's Office is neither involved in nor assisting any other agency's investigation.
Have Kathy Foster, Scott Foster's estate, Rockstar responded?
► So far, neither Kathy Foster, Rockstar Cheer as a gym, nor any representative of Foster's estate has addressed specific allegations in the lawsuits. Before its closure was announced, multiple calls to Rockstar Cheer over several days went unanswered and the gym's voicemail box was full.
► Kathy Foster later issued a statement emailed to reporters by a representative announcing Rockstar Cheer's Greer location would be closing "indefinitely."
► In a prior statement, Foster described herself as "heartbroken" by the allegations and promised to "cooperate with all involved to make sure our athletes learn and grow in a safe environment."
► When Scott Foster died, 16 other gyms across the country were using the Rockstar Cheer name and brand through licensing agreements. At least 10 have severed their connection in the wake of the allegations.
"While our tie to Rockstar was always in name only, we are making this switch to clearly and totally disassociate our kids, their parents, and our instructors and staff from any association with behaviors that have absolutely nothing to do with who we are, or how we run our programs," the 10 gyms said through the public relations firm Red Banyan.
Their affiliation, they said, was limited to "sharing the Rockstar brand and name," which "will both be changing, effective immediately."
► None of the Rockstar-affiliate gyms have been named in the lawsuits.
How have USASF, Varsity Spirit and the other defendants responded?
► USASF released a statement on Aug. 30 saying it was "devastated to learn of allegations about potential abuse of All Star athletes in South Carolina and potentially other areas as well."
The statement said the organization would not comment on specific allegations to "allow law enforcement to appropriately investigate," and it encouraged anyone with knowledge of wrongdoing to make a report to law enforcement as well as USASF.
► In a statement issued Sept. 1, Varsity Spirit president Bill Seely said his organization is "devastated for anyone who has been impacted by the egregious conduct and violation of trust (Foster's) alleged behavior represents" and affirmed Varsity's commitment to "athlete safety."
A second statement, released Sept. 19, provided a list of "ways we prioritize safety across our operations."
"Athlete safety is at the forefront of everything we do," Seely said.
► Varsity founder Jeff Webb denied all accusations against him and indicated he would file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in a statement emailed to The Greenville News on Sept. 21.
Webb expressed support for survivors and called the allegations of sexual abuse "heartbreaking."
► Neither Charlesbank Capital Partners nor Bain Capital have released statements addressing the allegations.
What happens next in the Rockstar Cheer case?
► Further legal action is expected against Foster's estate, Rockstar Cheer, and other gyms and coaches.
► In an interview, Sellers said his firm intended to file "successive cases with more victims," including "allegations against other gyms and coaches," including some in Greenville. Sellers said Strom anticipates filing lawsuits in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, California, and Maryland, all of which will name Varsity, USASF, Bain and others involved in cheer's governance and business model as defendants.
► Moreover, in addition to those that have already filed, at least one other law firm has announced it is representing victims.
"None of our clients are surprised" by the allegations against Foster, said attorney Peter McGrath of McGrath Law Firm in Mount Pleasant. He said his firm plans to proceed with "some sort of legal action" and expects more people to come forward.
Check back for more on this developing story.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: Rockstar Cheer closes amid scandal about Scott Foster and accusations