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First airing on Netflix in 2020, the documentary series followed the competitive cheerleading team at Navarro College, a community college in Texas.
Harris, who competed for Navarro and was one of the breakout stars of the Netflix documentary series, was arrested in September 2020 and charged with producing child pornography after allegedly “enticing an underage boy to produce sexually explicit videos and photos of himself”.
Harris is still currently in prison, after a judge denied him bail because she said he was a danger to the community. Harris has denied the charges and pleaded not guilty. A criminal trial is still forthcoming, with him facing a mandatory 15-year minimum sentence if convicted.
Episode five of Cheer season two, titled “Jerry”, delves into the accusations, with the documentary makers speaking to two of Harris’s alleged victims, their family members, lawyers and journalists about the claims against Harris.
The episode also sees the cast of Cheer discuss being told about Harris individually, with Gabi Butler describing how “immediately my heart completely sank.”
“I honestly thought I was living in a bad dream, I literally couldn’t wrap my head around any of that,” she said. “I felt like someone had just died… I was literally screaming and crying at the same time… People expect me to be like, ‘Well, you should hate him and you should never speak to him again,’ but the thing is, I can’t.”
La’Darius Marshall said that his initial response to the allegations was that “this can’t be true”.
“I would have snatched him up if I ever would have known about any of this stuff,” Marshall said. “I feel it would have been worse than him going to jail. I don’t care how famous you are… that don’t give you the right to do stuff like this.”
Coach Monica Aldama described being told about the news while preparing for her first Dancing with the Stars live show, saying through tears: “We had a team meeting that night and it really felt like a funeral. I’ve never seen the kids cry so hard.”
Aldama says that Harris wrote to her after his arrest but that she never wrote back to him. “His letter was so optimistic, there was not one negative thing in this letter,” she told the cameras, detailing how Harris said he still had hopes of being a motivational speaker. “I just was really caught off guard at the hope he had for the future,” Aldama said.
In additional to criminal charges, Harris has also been sued by underage twin brothers who allege that Harris sexually abused and demanded them to send explicit images when they were 13.
The brothers, Charlie and Sam, appear in the episode of Cheer along with their mother.
The brothers said that they were “ashamed” and didn’t want to “lose all [their] cheer friends”, with one of their colleagues quitting their team to avoid association with the twins when the allegations were made public.
The brothers only began to see themselves as victims with time, with Charlie saying that it was seeing Harris meet US president Joe Biden following the success of Cheer that made him want to come forward.
However, multiple reports made anonymously to the USASF (US All Star Federation) were allegedly ignored. Their mother then filed a report to the FBI in August 2020, as well as telling USA Today.
“I want to be the start of the change in cheer,” Charlie said, with both boys saying that they had no regrets about coming forward.
While Harris’s lawyer has not commented on the charges, a spokesperson said in 2020 of the lawsuit that they “categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed”.
Netflix approached Harris’s legal team multiple times, but they refused to appear on camera.
Speaking about the inclusion of Harris’s arrest in the new series, director Greg Whiteley said: “I am a huge believer in the power of stories and telling them honestly. I believe the story is going to ultimately be the best version of itself when you are honouring what is true, and you’re not running from it.”
Cheer season two is available on Netflix now.
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.