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Season two of Netflix reality breakout Cheer addresses former Navarro College Cheer team member Jerry Harris’ sexual abuse and child pornography charges in a dedicated hour of interviews with his accusers, Harris’ former teammates and coach Monica Aldama.
The Navarro Cheer team stunter appears in the first four of the show’s nine-episode sophomore season, which released in full on Wednesday, mainly through quick B-Roll shots and one very brief interview in episode two. It’s a significant shift from how prominently he was centered in the docuseries’ first set of six episodes that debuted in January 2020, nearly two years before Harris was accused of child sexual exploitation and abuse in a lawsuit filed on behalf of two young teens in September 2021.
But the season’s fifth and middle episode dedicates itself explicitly to these allegations, his arrest and the eight counts of sex crimes involving minors that Harris has pleaded not guilty to. Titled “Jerry,” the episode was shot after the show returned from a filming hiatus due to the pandemic and features everything from footage of the former cheerleader’s practices and public appearances to a detailed timeline of his alleged misconduct with two young cheer athletes amid his rapid rise to fame. (Harris’ representatives declined to appear on film for the episode. He has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center since his September 2020 arrest by the FBI and is certainly awaiting trial.)
The episode, however, begins with coach Aldama revealing her casting as part of Dancing With the Stars season 29. Largely separated from the team amid the height of the Harris controversy, Aldama recounted how she learned of Harris’ sexual abuse allegations and the initial federal charge of producing child pornography during September 2020. Harris was federally charged with an additional seven counts in December 2020.
“I was on the stage at Dancing with the Stars in dress rehearsal for our very first live show, the executive producer came up to me and showed me her phone and asked me if I had seen the headline in the news that day,” she recalled. “It was like an out-of-body experience at the time. I felt like I couldn’t breathe … I did the show. And then I went back to my trailer. I didn’t even want to look at my phone because I was scared.
“I couldn’t do anything about it. And I just didn’t want to read it,” she added, before revealing that the team had a meeting “that night” about the news, which she described as being a tear-filled “funeral.”
Towards the end of the episode, the Navarro Cheer coach reveals Harris sent her a letter, which she describes as “optimistic” and features his desire to become a “motivational speaker.”
In Aldama’s absence, the show pivots to Harris’ former teammates, who emotionally recall their experiences getting the news about their former teammate. Many of the athletes describe a sinking feeling or being “blindsided.” Several wondered what might have influenced their teammate’s behavior, while others expressed guilt over not stopping him and even anger at his alleged abuse.
“I would have snatched him up if I ever would have known about any of this stuff,” La’Darius Marshall, who was close with Harris, said. “I feel like it would have been worse than him going to jail. I don’t care how famous you are. How much money you got. I don’t care how much people love you. That don’t give you the right to do stuff like this, especially when one of your best friends you know went through something like that.”
Others like Navarro flyer and tumbler Gabi Bulter said they wouldn’t or couldn’t cut Harris out of their lives. “I don’t agree with what he was accused of or condone it. At all. And it is very unfortunate, and it breaks my heart. But it’s literally like your family. Are you going to just hate your family?” she said. “I can’t turn my back on him because he was there for me when I needed it.”
Around a quarter of the way in, the episode focuses on Harris’ accusers, twin cheer athletes Charlie and Sam. The duo detail how Harris — who previously admitted to targeting up to 10 underage boys and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old before pleading not guilty to eight federal counts — initially contacted Charlie via Instagram in the summer of 2018.
Charlie goes on to recall Harris’ repeated attempts to contact him, meet up and send explicit material, in addition to trying to allegedly coerce Charlie into sexual acts while both attended the American Cheerleaders Association championships in 2019. Charlie and Sam, who Harris also eventually reached out to, discuss how the Cheer Navarro member’s fame within the competitive cheer community and beyond played into their silence even as his misconduct affected their mental health.
“He was doing good things for All Star cheerleading because he was bringing all this very positive attention to this sport that they really cared about,” Kristin says. “They didn’t want him affected adversely for the sake of their sport, and they didn’t want to be the ones that tattled on Jerry Harris because they knew that it would be devastating for them socially.”
But Cheer episode five also reveals how that same public fame became the breaking point. “One morning, I saw that Jerry was being recognized by President Biden, and that’s when I pretty much just like, lost it,” Charlie says. “I went up to my mom, and I was like, ‘I want to do something about this.'”
The rest of the episode chronicles how Kristin reported Harris’ alleged misconduct to various competitive organizations like the U.S. All Star Federation and the Cheer Athletics gym Harris was then affiliated with, co-owned by Angela Rogers, before turning to the FBI. Comment from Cheer Athletics or USASF was not featured in the episode, but Kristin asserts her reports went ignored.
“If we were going to go on the news and do this and just be anonymous, everyone would be like, ‘Well, where’s the receipts?’ Or where is the proof, or where’s the evidence?” Charlie said. “And I want to show to the world, give people a face to, when they think of Jerry Harris, what he did.”
Additionally, the hour touches on how USA Today investigative reporters Tricia Nadolny and Marisa Kwiatkowski connected with the twins’ mother through their reporting of abuse in competitive cheer. Their own investigations “found that the way that the U.S. All Star Federation handled the allegations against Jerry Harris was not an anomaly,” according to Kwiatkowski.
Following their decision to speak and Harris’ arrest, the two teens say that “pretty much all sense of community was completely ripped away.”
Charlie said, “At competitions, me and Sam would walk down the hallway, and everyone would just be, like, staring at us, pointing at us and just be whispering, and we would just feel so uncomfortable and so different and so isolated.”
Sarah Klein, an attorney and advocate for victims of sexual abuse and survivor of convicted rapist Larry Nassar, pointed to how name recognition and fame like that which Jerry reached exacerbates a culture where survivors are “judged and criticized and called names and shamed and broken.”
“Jerry has become sort of the poster child for this within cheer because he was very high profile,” she explained. “Some people are going to say it’s great that he was exposed for who he is and what he was doing, and some people are going to say, ‘Not our Jerry. We love him.’ It’s very easy when we fall in love with people we feel connected to in some way to have them on a pedestal and to believe they can do no wrong.”
Regardless of whether the cheer community supports them or not, Charlie and Sam say they have no regrets and would come forward again. “I want to be the start of change in cheer,” Charlie says.
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