McKayla Maroney Accuses USA Gymnastics of Using a Confidential Settlement to Conceal Sexual Abuse

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

On Wednesday, 2012 Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court against the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, claiming that officials had her sign a confidential financial settlement in an effort to keep her silent about her allegations that former Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused her, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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According to the LA Times, the lawsuit alleges that the USOC enabled a “culture and atmosphere that conceals known and suspected sexual abusers.”

The lawsuit also reportedly alleges that USA Gymnastics “coerced” Maroney into signing the settlement, which included a “non-disparagement clause and confidentiality provision.”

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The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Maroney’s settlement was signed in December 2016 and worth $1.25 million.

On December 7 of this year, Nassar was handed a 60-year prison sentence for being found guilty of federal child pornography charges. According to the Washington Post, Nassar was also accused of sexual assault by more than 140 women in civil and criminal complaints.

The USOC has denied it was involved in the settlement payout, or aware of it. “We are heartbroken that the abuse occurred,” said a USOC spokesperson, “[and] proud of the brave victims that have come forward and grateful that our criminal justice system has ensured that Nassar will never be able to harm another young woman.”

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USA Gymnastics claimed that it was in fact Maroney’s legal representation at the time that requested the confidential settlement. A USA Gymnastics spokesperson said, “In 2016, McKayla’s attorney at the time, Gloria Allred, approached USA Gymnastics, requesting that the organization participate in a confidential mediation process.”

Maroney’s attorney, John Manly, compared his client’s accusations of being paid off to victims of abuse by priests kept quiet by the Catholic Church, saying, “This was an immoral and illegal attempt to silence a victim of child sexual abuse.”

contributing writer, nights

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DISCUSSION

As a human being, everything about this entire abuse history sickens me to my core.

As a lawyer, a confidentiality provision in a negotiated settlement agreement is pretty standard stuff. I’ve never had one that didn’t (on behalf of both plaintiff and defendant). Even more, they always have exclusions for instances where you’re compelled by law. The fact that she had counsel at the time - especially someone as well known as Gloria Allred - will make the coercion argument virtually impossible to make.

The real question here is whether there should be laws that prohibit or restrict confidentiality provisions for settlements involving sexual abuse claims.