A registered sex offender involved in competitive cheerleading continued coaching young athletes — by registering her gym in her son’s name, according to a report.
Mishelle Robinson, 44, was barred from the sport by the US All Star Federation last year after being convicted in 2006 of sexual battery of a high school boy she coached.
But she skirted the ban by rebranding her Ohio gym and registering in her son Austin’s name, according to USA Today.
The Empire All Stars, a slight variation of its original name Empire Cheer and Dance and led by the convicted felon, performed in a virtual cheer competition in December and is registered to compete again this weekend.
Robinson’s son Austin is now registered as the owner of Empire All Stars, which is still located in the same small Ohio town, with the same website and Facebook page, according to the newspaper.
It’s not the first time Robinson has put a family member in charge of her gym on paper. In August, she admitted that she put her sister Christina’s name on USASF paperwork because she knew she couldn’t pass a background test.
“My sister is actually the registered owner with USASF,” she told USA Today at the time. “Which we share a lot of it anyway, so no big deal.”
Christina was banned by USASF in October but is still connected to the gym. The authority noted that she was the gym’s registration contact in an email to event producers on Jan. 7.
The shadow-leader sister also submitted footage of the Empire cheer team, the Bombshells, into the 2020 World Spirit Federation All Star Cheer and Dance Virtual Championship last month, according to Varsity’s website. The team had also been registered to compete this weekend.
Varsity is the industry’s leading cheer competition producer and controls a majority of the USASF’s board. It said it allowed Empire All Stars to register because it is a USASF member.
But organizers rolled back that decision when reached for comment by USA Today.
“Our internal review has found that Empire All Stars is tangentially associated with Empire Cheer and Dance and Varsity Spirit has made the independent decision to ban the gym from attending future Varsity Spirit events,” said Jackie Kennedy, the company’s vice president of marketing and communications.
USASF suspended the program last week pending an investigation, the paper reported. It did not respond to questions about why it allowed the gym to regain membership.
“Athlete protection is our top priority and we will take all steps possible to prevent anyone from circumventing our membership policies,” USASF told the newspaper.
Outraged advocates pointed the finger at both Varsity and USASF for allowing Robinson’s program to compete after being banned.
“It’s obvious that you’re just trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. And that’s not OK,” National Cheer Safety Foundation founder Kimberly Archie said. “People who have been banned shouldn’t be allowed to just substitute in a family member and continue on with business as usual.”
The USASF has banned or suspended more than 135 registered sex offenders and their gyms since a USA Today investigation over the summer exposed 74 people working in cheerleading despite being charged or convicted for sexual misconduct involving minors.