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Jury Awards $9M to Player Who Sued US Tennis Association Over Sexual Abuse by Coach

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A tennis player was awarded $9 million in damages by a jury in federal court in Florida after accusing the U.S. Tennis Association of failing to protect her from a coach she said sexually abused her at one of its training centers when she was a teenager.

The lawsuit, filed by Kylie McKenzie in March 2022, said Anibal Aranda, who was employed by the sport’s national governing body for about seven years and later fired, used his position as a USTA coach to get access to vulnerable female athletes and commit sexual battery against them.

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“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. “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.”

The AP generally doesn’t name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but McKenzie agreed to let her identity be used in news coverage about her lawsuit.

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Her lawsuit said the USTA negligently failed to protect her from sexual assaults and was negligent in keeping Aranda as a coach after he sexually assaulted a USTA employee.

As a junior player, McKenzie — who is now 25 — reached a career-high ranking of No. 33 in 2016. The year before, she compiled a 20-6 record in junior competition, including victories over Sofia Kenin, who would go on to win the championship at the 2020 Australian Open, and Tamara Zidansek, later a semifinalist at the 2021 French Open.

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The U.S. District Court jury awarded McKenzie $3 million in compensation and added $6 million in punitive damages on Monday.

“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 wrote.

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Spokesman Chris Widmaier said the USTA would appeal.

“We are sympathetic to the plaintiff and what she endured. We do not — and have never — disputed her allegations against a coach,” Widmaier said.

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He said the USTA was “deeply troubled” by the decision, including that “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 Tuesday that a review of the USTA’s safeguarding policies and procedures is ongoing. Two lawyers at a Washington-based firm were enlisted to look into how the USTA keeps athletes safe from abuse and how it responds to reports of misconduct.

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Photo: Anibal Aranda is shown at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. in 2017. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Copyright 2024 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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