USA Gymnastics paid Olympian McKayla Maroney $1.25 million to keep quiet about years of sex abuse

Maroney's lawyers says the payment was "an immoral and illegal attempt to silence a victim of child sexual abuse."

Gymnast McKayla Maroney poses for a portrait at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit on Monday, May 14, 2012 in Dallas. (AP Photo/Victoria Will)
Gymnast McKayla Maroney poses for a portrait at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit on Monday, May 14, 2012 in Dallas. (AP Photo/Victoria Will)

Two weeks ago, Larry Nassar, the child molester and former gymnastics doctor responsible for the largest sex abuse scandal in U.S. sports history, was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges. But this story is far from over. Nassar faces two more sentencing trials in January, and the public is only just beginning to reckon with the lengths to which USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and other gymnastics organizations went to in order to enable or excuse his abuse of at least 150 girls and young women.

On Wednesday, the latest bombshell dropped when the Wall Street Journal reported that USA Gymnastics paid olympian McKayla Maroney $1.25 million last year to keep her from going public with the abuse she suffered at the hands of Nassar.

Maroney, one of the gold-medal winning Fierce Five gymnasts at the 2012 London Olympics, revealed amidst the #MeToo campaign this fall that Nassar molested her for most of her elite gymnastics career; she even recalled one time when he drugged her. Two of Maroney’s teammates in London — Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman — have also come forward as survivors of Nassar’s abuse.

John Manly, an attorney for Maroney and many of Nassar’s other victims, called the confidentiality agreement “an immoral and illegal attempt to silence a victim of child sexual abuse.” According to Manly, who filed the lawsuit on Maroney’s behalf with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, USA Gymnastics presented Maroney with the settlement several months after IndyStar published an investigative report on the systematic sex abuse taking place within USA Gymnastics, and the full extent of Nassar’s abuse was only beginning to come to light.

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The lawsuit says that USA Gymnastics “forced” her to enter into the confidential agreement because she was struggling “after suffering for years from psychological trauma of her sexual abuse at the hands of Nassar, and in need of funds to pay for psychological treatment for her worsening psychological condition.”

Maroney first brought her claims to USA Gymnastics in May of 2016, a few months after USA Gymnastics quietly let Nassar go and alerted the FBI to the allegations against him, and months before any of Nassar’s victims came forward. But the confidentiality agreement wasn’t signed until December 2016. Manly wants Maroney to be released from the nondisclosure agreement, and notes that in California, where Maroney lives, a victim of child sexual abuse cannot be forced to sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of a settlement.

So far, the only person at USA Gymnastics who has lost his job amid the growing scandal is former president Steve Penny, who was one of the parties to sign Maroney’s NDA. Penny resigned in March, a full six months after the first reports about Nassar became public.

Earlier this month, USA Gymnastics filed a motion to be dismissed from a civil suit filed by victims of Nassar, saying it had “no legal duty to protect plaintiffs from Nassar’s criminal conduct” and “no duty to warn MSU, Twistars, or others about the reported concerns about Nassar.”

As disturbing as this NDA revelation is, USA Gymnastics is hardly the only organization to be in the news this week for its mishandling of the Nassar case.

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On Tuesday, it was revealed that Michigan State University allowed Nassar to continue to see patients — and therefore abuse victims — during a 19-month police investigation in 2014 and 2015.