USA Cheer, the embattled governing body backed by Bain Capital’s Varsity Spirit—each of which are co-defendants in 12 federal sex abuse lawsuits and antitrust cases—received some welcome news this week from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
On Wednesday, the USOPC announced it had accepted USA Cheer as one of its new affiliate sports organizations (AOCs), along with the United States Muaythai Federation, USA Cricket, USA Kickboxing and USA Lacrosse. AOCs are considered a second-tier designation for organizations whose sports are not currently in the Olympic Games.
In a statement posted on USA Cheer’s website, executive director Lauri Harris said the announcement marked a “monumental day” five years in the making.
USA Cheer has long been recognized as the American national governing body for cheerleading by the International Cheer Union, an entity also created by Varsity. ICU’s current president is Varsity founder Jeff Webb.
The USOPC’s nod lends an independent credence to the organization, which is attempting to assert itself as America’s centralized governing authority over a popular sport that has faced repeated scandals in recent years. The move also provides a reciprocal benefit to the ICU, as it leads the effort to put competitive cheerleading into the Olympics by 2028.
The USOPC’s vote of confidence, however, was tempered by the NCAA, which decided to table a vote to approve Stunt, a gymnastics-related cheerleading alternative, as an emerging women’s sport for all three of its collegiate divisions. An NCAA spokesperson told Sportico that the association’s Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA) would review Stunt again in the spring, but declined to provide further details.
Harris did not respond to a request for comment.
The CWA had previously recommended Stunt for emerging sport status back in 2020, the same year a similar sport, Acrobatics & Tumbling, received full approval. A&T proponents have criticized Stunt for competing over the same turf in order to secure Varsity’s foothold in the competitive college space. At one point in time, Webb had lobbied against cheerleading becoming a collegiate sport, and Varsity disclosed in SEC filings in the early aughts that the NCAA’s rules could compromise its financial model.
(This story has been updated to accurately reflect Jeff Webb’s position as ICU’s president.)