Federal Jury Orders US Tennis Association To Pay $9 Million In Sexual Abuse Case

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Mariane Angela Contributor
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Florida federal jury ordered the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) to pay $9 million in a sexual abuse case Monday, The Athletic reported.

Kylie McKenzie, a former junior tennis player, was awarded $9 million in damages by a Florida federal court jury after she filed a lawsuit against the USTA, claiming it failed to protect her from sexual abuse by a coach at one of its training centers during her teenage years. The coach, Anibal Aranda, was accused of using his position to exploit vulnerable female athletes and commit sexual battery, according to The Athletic.

The jury awarded McKenzie $3 million in compensatory damages and an additional $6 million in punitive damages. McKenzie, now 25, expressed relief and validation following the verdict, hoping her case would encourage other victims to speak out, ABC News reported.

“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. I feel validated,” McKenzie said in a statement emailed Tuesday by one of her lawyers, Amy Judkins, ABC News reported. “It was very hard, but I feel now that it was all worth it. I hope I can be an example for other girls to speak out even when it’s difficult.” (RELATED: Olympian Stripped Of Honors 50 Years Later After Abuse Allegations Found Credible: REPORT)

The lawsuit accused the USTA of negligence in preventing sexual assaults and in their decision to retain coach Aranda despite previous allegations of assault against a USTA employee. At the peak of her junior career in 2016, McKenzie achieved a career-high ranking of No. 33, defeating players who would go on to have notable professional careers, ABC News reported.

Judkins commended the jury’s decision and noted that it recognized the personal impact on McKenzie and the broader implications for athlete safety.

“We are very pleased with the jury’s decision to award Ms. McKenzie for her pain and suffering but more importantly we believe the jury’s decision to award punitive damages sends the correct message to all sports organizations that they must take necessary steps to protect the athletes under their banner,” Judkins said in a statement, ABC News reported.

Despite the verdict, the USTA plans to appeal. USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier expressed sympathy for McKenzie but criticized the court’s decision, particularly the expectation set for victims to report their abusers, which he argued could deter future reporting.

“The court ruled that the USTA was liable because one of its employees — a non-athlete — had an obligation to report her own experience with this coach to the USTA; an incident that was unknown until after the USTA removed the coach. This sets a new and unreasonable expectation for victims, one that will deter them from coming forward in the future,” Widmaier said, according to ABC News.