MEMPHIS, Tenn — Memphis-based Varsity Spirit, the nationwide cheerleading and dance competition company recently embroiled in multiple lawsuits claiming they facilitated sexual abuse in cheer gyms, is firing back at the law firm responsible for filing the suits, saying the claims linking them to the abuse cases were made "without any factual basis."
Attorneys representing Varsity Spirit sent a letter to the South Carolina-based Strom Law Firm, which is representing cheer gym sexual assault survivors in the suits against the company, demanding they stop all outside communication regarding Varsity Spirit and its affiliated brands relating to the lawsuit until they provide evidence linking Varsity with the abuse allegations.
In the letter, Varsity Spirit said they fully support the survivors named in the abuse lawsuits, but refute the claims by attorney Bakari Sellers that the company had hired defamation lawyers for the purpose of silencing survivors and preventing more from coming forward.
"Varsity Spirit completely and actively supports the survivors’ pursuit of justice and will never take any action to prevent or deter survivors from coming forward to tell their stories," company representatives said in the letter.
For its part, Varsity Spirit has maintained that the cases brought forth against them - which now include sexual abuse in cheer gyms in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina - had nothing to do with Varsity Spirit, since the company hasn't owned or operated cheer gyms in several years, and they fully support the survivors named in the suits and their pursuit of justice.
The company claims Strom filed a "sham lawsuit," meaning they filed the sexual abuse lawsuits against Varsity Spirit for the sole purpose of defaming them.
"In your court papers, you have made - and then publicized outside of those filings - extraordinary claims about Varsity Spirit that, where unsupported by any evidence or factual basis beyond your own publicity-seeking imagination, cross the line and constitute 'sham litigation,'" the letter said.
In response, Strom released a statement from attorney Bakari Sellers defending the firm's actions, and encouraging more survivors of sexual abuse to come forward and speak their truth.
“We are committed to our clients and vigorously prosecuting these cases and take our responsibilities to the clients and the court very seriously," Sellers said. "We hope this does not have the effect of chilling those who have suffered abuse from coming forward."