USA Gymnastics: Maroney can speak about Nassar

Charles E. Ramirez, and Mark Hicks

Gymnast McKayla Maroney can speak publicly about being a victim of former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar despite a settlement agreement’s confidentiality clause.

USA Gymnastics said Tuesday in a statement on its website that it wouldn’t penalize the Olympic-gold-medalist if she decided to speak about her experience as one of Nassar’s victims. Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics is a nonprofit and the national governing body for the sports in the United States.

“USA Gymnastics has not sought and will not seek any money from McKayla Maroney for her brave statements made in describing her victimization and abuse by Larry Nassar, nor for any victim impact statements she wants to make to Larry Nassar at this hearing or at any subsequent hearings related to his sentencing,” its statement said.

“This has been her right and USA Gymnastics encourages McKayla and anyone who has been abused to speak out. USA Gymnastics remains focused on our highest priority — the safety, health and well-being of our athletes and creating a culture that empowers and supports them.”

The group’s statement comes as an Ingham County Circuit Court judge presides over a sentencing hearing for the confessed molester. On Tuesday, the hearing’s first day, 29 victims shared their stories of abuse by the Olympic woman gymnastics’ team doctor.

It also comes about a month after Maroney filed a lawsuit against the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, claiming they had her sign a confidentiality agreement as part of a financial settlement to keep her sexual abuse by Nassar secret. Maroney’s attorneys allege the agreement is illegal because California law forbids confidential civil agreements involving potential felony sex crimes.

It’s not clear how much money she received in the agreement, but sources said it was about $1.25 million.

"USA Gymnastics finally acknowledges that the gag order they forced on Ms. Maroney and her attorney was unenforceable," said California-based attorney John Manly, who represents more than 100 Michigan women in civil lawsuits against Nassar.

"... Let’s be clear.  The only reason this statement was issued is because people were outraged at USAG’s behavior toward Ms. Maroney and her family.  So outraged that people were kindly offering to pay the six figure USAG penalty so McKayla could speak."

Maroney said in her lawsuit that USA Gymnastics could penalize her $100,000 if she spoke about the abuse or the settlement.

On Tuesday, swimsuit model and TV host Chrissy Teigen offered on Twitter to pay the penalty for Maroney if she wanted to speak publicly about the abuse.

“The entire principle of this should be fought — an NDA to stay quiet about this serial monster with over 140 accusers, but I would be absolutely honored to pay this fine for you, McKayla,” she tweeted.

Teigen’s offer sparked an outpouring of support online.

“Chrissy, be more awesome,” one user tweeted. “Thank you for strengthening victims’ voices. No one should ever be suppressed.”

Another wrote: “I try not to succumb to the cult of celebrity but Chrissy makes it damn hard.”

A third simply posted: “Women supporting women is the most beautiful sight.”

Maroney won a gold medal as part of the U.S. Gymnastics team at the 2012 Olympics in London.