Jury Finds USTA Failed to Protect Tennis Player from Sexual Assault

A jury has awarded $9 million in damages to tennis player Kylie McKenzie, who accused the United States Tennis Association (USTA) of failing to protect her from sexual assault by her coach, Anibal Aranda. 

McKenzie filed a lawsuit in March 2022, alleging that Aranda committed sexual assault and battery against her. She also accused the USTA of "gross negligence" for employing and failing to properly supervise Aranda, despite his known history of sexual predation.

The sexual assault affected McKenzie's performances on the court, causing anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. 

In a press conference, she said, "My confidence and my self-esteem were gone, both on and off the court."The jury awarded McKenzie $3 million in compensation and $6 million in punitive damages. 

McKenzie's attorney, Robert Allard, criticized the USTA's handling of the case, calling for a complete overhaul of leadership. 

McKenzie, who was seen as a rising star in US tennis, moved to the USTA's facility in Orlando at 19. Aranda began coaching her and made inappropriate comments and physical contact. In October 2018, he stood close behind her during a serving drill, pressing his body against hers and grabbing her hips. In November 2018, Aranda allegedly placed his hand on her thigh and rubbed her groin over her clothes. 

After reporting the sexual assault, an investigation found that Aranda had also groped an USTA employee in 2015. He was subsequently fired by the USTA after seven years of employment. McKenzie expressed relief and validation at the outcome, hoping to be an example for other girls to speak out against sexual misconduct. 

McKenzie's attorney, Robert Allard, specializes in representing victims of sexual abuse, particularly cases involving institutions like schools, sports organizations, and youth-serving groups. He is widely regarded as one of the nation's top lawyers in the area of "institutional sexual abuse" cases. He played a pivotal role in exposing the sexual abuse scandal within USA Swimming and the Olympic movement through litigation he initiated in 2010. This led to major reforms and stronger protection policies across amateur sports. 

Kylie McKenzie's case has brought attention to the issue of sexual abuse in sports and the need for organizations to take responsibility for protecting their athletes. Her bravery in speaking out has inspired others to do the same, and her legacy will be one of advocating for change and accountability in the sports world. The verdict is seen as a significant victory for McKenzie and a message to sports organizations to take necessary steps to protect athletes from sexual abuse.

McKenzie joined the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) full-time training team in California at the age of 12. She won the national under-16 championship at 15 and played in the 2015 US Girls' singles, reaching the quarterfinals.
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