Female tennis sensation Kylie McKenzie sues USTA for sexual harassment and assault committed by its coach
Federal lawsuit filed by San Jose-based Cerri, Boskovich & Allard and Florida-based Normand PLLC
ORLANDO, Fla., March 29, 2022 – A rising tennis star who was sexually assaulted by her coach has filed suit against the United States Tennis Association, claiming the organization and its player development affiliate failed to protect her from a known sexual abuser.
The civil suit was filed in Orlando, Florida on behalf of Kylie McKenzie, an Arizona resident who was sexually harassed and assaulted in 2018 by Coach Anibal Aranda at one of USTA’s National Training Centers.
“The manner in which USTA enabled Aranda’s predatory behavior shows the USTA continues to have a serious sexual misconduct problem,” attorney Robert Allard said. “We are starting to see a distressing pattern of the USTA turning a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of athletes.”
Kylie was 19 and trying to come back from a serious injury when the then-34-year-old Aranda began coaching her at the direction of USTA. Like most abusers, Aranda used Kylie’s desire for success to exert power over her, promising that she would be successful if she stayed with him.
“Aranda had his hands all over me when we were practicing and his behavior was escalating on a daily basis,” Kylie said. “It got to the point where I dreaded going to practice.”
The turning point came on Nov. 9, 2018, when Aranda sexually assaulted Kylie by rubbing her vagina when he was sitting next to her on a bench after practice, the lawsuit says.
Kylie immediately reported Aranda to the United States Center for SafeSport. After an extensive investigation, SafeSport accepted all of Kylie’s allegations and ordered that a 2-year ban and subsequent 2-year probationary period be imposed against the coach.
Aranda’s harassment and abuse of Kylie, Allard said, should have been foreseen by the USTA since he had previously attacked a high-level USTA executive in virtually the same manner.
“USTA was acutely aware of this man’s predatory behavior and, incredulously, made the decision to assign him to Kylie for coaching, even though they knew they would have significant one-to-one interactions, often in remote parts of a massive training center,” Allard said. “If there was ever a situation of sending a wolf to an unprotected, unknowing and innocent sheep, this was it. The fact that they did not even warn her or her parents of his history is unconscionable.”
A recent story published by Matt Futterman and the New York Times contains additional information about Kylie’s story.
This is by no means the first time USTA has kept its athletes in the dark about its knowledge of predator coaches. As covered in extensive litigation that concluded in 2021, the USTA had previously been made aware of another coach’s molestation of a male athlete in Northern California and, although it subsequently banned him, kept this information confidential and failed to issue simple warnings to parents of children known to be under the care and supervision of this coach. As a result, at least one other boy was molested.
Compounding matters is the fact that for well over 10 years the United States Olympic Committee had been imploring the USTA to make several changes to its child protection rules, including publicly posting lists of banned coaches and banning romantic coach/athlete relationships. USTA consistently flouted these recommendations, insisting that it was fully able to regulate itself, as New York Times’s David Chen wrote in April 2020
“USTA’s track record demonstrates it is unable to protect its members so long as its leadership continues to be fixated on revenue generation at the expense of athlete protection,” Allard said. “So, we are asking Congress, as it recently did with USA Gymnastics, to get involved in the daily management of this corrupt entity and issue, where appropriate, severe sanctions such as decertification.”
Any athlete who was sexually harassed and/or abused by Aranda or any other USTA coach is encouraged to contact Cerri, Boskovich & Allard at 408-289-1417 or visit https://www.cbalawfirm.com/.