CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – The operators of a dating website reportedly used by members of Coastal Carolina University's cheerleading squad will be reaching out to the cheerleaders' attorney to offer to pay for legal fees following the team being suspended indefinitely.
This is according to Maura Welp, public relations manager for ReflexMedia Inc.
The website, SeekingArrangement.com, was listed in a CCU investigative report that resulted after an anonymous letter was sent to university President David DeCenzo alleging that members of the cheerleading team operated an escort service and were "prostituting themselves."
"We are a little disappointed in the claims that the school is making against these young women," Welp said Friday via email. "SeekingArrangement.com is to provide a dating platform for like-minded individuals who are interested in mutually beneficial relationships to connect and find meaningful arrangements."
Brandon Wade, founder and CEO of SeekingArrangement.com, said in a statement that it is "bullying" to "portray these women as 'prostitutes' just because you do not understand or agree with their dating choice."
According to Wade, over 1.2 million U.S. students are registered members of SeekingArrangement.com.
"College education is so expensive," Wade said. "So we tend to see a huge percentage of college women signing up on the website, looking to find sugar daddies - in this case, rich and wealthy guys to date - who might help them with school as well as expenses."
Visitors to SeekingArrangements.com are given the choice between being a "sugar daddy" or "mommy", or a "sugar baby".
"There's sugar mommies. So, assuming we had all the football team players, they went on seeking arrangements, they got themselves sugar mommies, I don't think the same situation would be happening right now," Wade said. "This is clearly a situation of slut-shaming. I think that there are a lot of civil implications here. What the university is doing is defamation. These girls are branded as 'prostitutes' wrongfully, and there are significant consequences for their lives moving forward."
According to the CCU report, the cheerleaders mentioned as taking part in the dating site maintain they did not take part in any sexual activity. It did say the participants were paid between $100 and $1,500 a date. They also reportedly received payment in the form of clothes, shoes and designer handbags.
Wade said the site specifically prohibits "pay-per-meet" transactions.
"So one of the things we do is we check the photos against all the photos in the internet and if your photo comes up on an escort site, you're kicked off right away," he said.
While his site may make some feel uneasy, Wade said punishing those who use it is wrong.
"Why are we looking at the private dating choices of these women who have done nothing illegal, publicizing them, and slut-shaming them?" he said. "This is what the world and everyone needs to be concerned about."
WMBF received a copy of the contract agreement given to all CCU cheerleaders.
When discussing social media, it reads "Inappropriate social media posts will be removed and punished according to coaches discretion" and "If a leader asks you to remove any social media and you refuse, you will be punished, benched, or removed from the team."
Following Thursday's release of the CCU investigative report, Amy Lawrence, an attorney representing several members of the cheerleading team, released a statement that said, in part:
Last week, the cheerleading team was suspended indefinitely pending a conduct investigation stemming from the arrival of the anonymous letter on March 7.