Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney reportedly signed a confidentiality settlement with USA Gymnastics about the alleged sexual abuse she endured at the hands of former team doctor Larry Nassar.
Maroney’s attorney, John Manly, filed a lawsuit Wednesday that names Nassar, USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State University ― where Nassar worked as a full-time physician ― as defendants. According to a report from ESPN, USA Gymnastics allegedly approached Maroney to sign a confidentiality agreement in December 2016, when the allegations against Nassar began coming out.
“Confidentiality agreements in child sex abuse cases are unlawful in the state of California and have been for years,” Manly told ESPN on Wednesday. “We’re basically saying USAG and its lawyers violated the law by asking McKayla to agree to it and that she should be free to talk about her abuse to whomever she wants, whenever she wants.”
The amount in the confidentiality settlement was $1.25 million, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
In a statement to HuffPost, USA Gymnastics said that Maroney and her attorney at the time, Gloria Allred, were the ones who initiated the confidentiality agreement.
USA Gymnastics learned today from media reports that McKayla Maroney has filed a lawsuit against it, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University related to abuse by Larry Nassar. That filing apparently seeks to nullify provisions in a prior settlement agreement between USA Gymnastics and McKayla. Contrary to reports, the concept of confidentiality was initiated by McKayla’s attorney, not USA Gymnastics.
In 2016, McKayla’s attorney at the time, Gloria Allred, approached USA Gymnastics, requesting that the organization participate in a confidential mediation process. USA Gymnastics cannot speak to the mediation process, which is confidential and privileged under California law. The process culminated in a settlement agreement that included a mutual non-disclosure clause and a mutual non-disparagement clause. The settlement in 2016 was in accordance with state law, despite what has been alleged. At all times, McKayla was represented by Allred, a California-based attorney, who actively negotiated and approved the settlement agreement signed by McKayla.
Although USA Gymnastics is disappointed by today’s filing, we applaud McKayla and others who speak up against abusive behavior ― including the despicable acts of Larry Nassar. We want to work together with McKayla and others to help encourage and empower athletes to speak up against abuse. USA Gymnastics new CEO Kerry Perry is eager to speak personally with McKayla to hear her ideas on how to move the sport forward and to discuss the many safe sport enhancements that have already been implemented at USA Gymnastics.
Manly, who was not Maroney’s attorney when she signed the confidentiality agreement, said she entered into the agreement willingly but was traumatized and not in the right frame of mind.
“I want people to understand that this kid had no choice. She couldn’t function. She couldn’t work,” Manly said. “[USA Gymnastics was] willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of one of the most famous gymnasts in the world because they didn’t want the world to know they were protecting a pedophile doctor.”
Manly told ESPN that the lawsuit could expose Maroney to a countersuit from USA Gymnastics, although he said the chances of a successful countersuit are unlikely.
[USA Gymnastics was] willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of one of the most famous gymnasts in the world because they didn’t want the world to know they were protecting a pedophile doctor. John Manly, McKayla Maroney's attorney
Maroney, who is now 22, broke her confidentiality agreement this past October when she tweeted that Nassar had sexually abused her for years under the pretense of medical treatment. The tweet, which has since been deleted, described years of sexual abuse that allegedly began when Maroney was 13.
“Dr. Nassar told me that I was receiving ‘medically necessary treatment that he had been performing on patients for over 30 years,’” Maroney wrote. “It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated.’”
Maroney also wrote about a harrowing episode that allegedly happened when she was 15.
“For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old,” she wrote. “I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment.’ I thought I was going to die that night.”
Maroney has not commented publicly on the lawsuit. Earlier this month, Maroney and her mother wrote powerful victim impact statements describing the physical and emotional abuse the young gymnast allegedly endured.
“[Nassar] abused my trust, he abused my body and he left scars on my psyche that may never go away,” Maroney wrote in the letter, obtained by E! News. “Larry Nassar deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. Not only because of what he did to me, my teammates and so many other little girls ― He needs to be behind bars so he will never prey upon another child.”
Last month, Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual misconduct in the first degree. He faces sentencing for those charges in January. In a separate case earlier this month, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for possession of child pornography.
This article has been updated to include USA Gymnastics’ statement.