Photo Illustration: Grib; Photos by Getty Images
If there was a Daytona for the unwritten reality show genre, Netflix would be the one to hit with shows like Too hot to handle and Selling Sunset who turned their talent into celebrities from one day to the next. But the stars of the series with the most spirit, Encourage, were already cheer-lebrities in their world. After the first season premiered in January 2020, the Navarro cheer levers became well-known names for viewers outside the sport, with non-stop TV appearances on shows such as The Ellen show and even red carpet interviews at the Oscars. Their newfound fame did not come without a few tumblings. Fan favorite Jerry Harris was arrested shortly after USA today reported allegations of sexual assault with two minors in 2019. La’Darius Marshall left the team after battling coach Monica Aldama and assistant coach Kailee Peppers, claiming his mental health suffered after being on the team. Season two of Encourage, which premiered on Jan. 12, both addressed controversy as the team prepares for the NCA College Nationals in 2021 in Daytona Beach. Below, we summarized the excitement from the mat that left the team and viewers in tears, fear and cheers.
In September 2020, Jerry Harris was arrested for sexual misconduct. He was accused of sending sexually explicit messages on social media to two minors; one of which claimed that Harris put him in a corner of a bathroom at a cheer contest and tried to force him into oral sex. The FBI investigation led to Harris’ arrest, in which he was charged with a single charge of producing child pornography. In December 2020, he faced new charges that led to a seven-count indictment but pleaded not guilty to all seven charges. He was denied bail in October 2020 and remains detained without bond at the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center until his hearing on February 10.
Within five minutes of the first episode, the series plays news footage of Harris’ arrest. It then rewinds to earlier in the year as the team prepares for their Daytona competition, unaware of what is to come. It is only in episode five that it dedicates itself to Harris, after which the show reels until September 2020, where USA today brought the news.
Encourage speaks directly to Harris’ victims, twin brothers Charlie and Sam (whose last names have been withheld because they are minors), also cheerleaders, and they share their accusations. Charlie describes how Harris allegedly contacted him through his private Instagram account in 2018 when he was 13. He had known Harris through his fame on the cheer team, the Cheer Athletics Cheetahs, which Charlie explained was his and his brother’s dream cheerleaders. team. “I did not want him to dislike me or not be friends with me,” Charlie says of their interactions. In 2019, while they were at the same jubilation event, Charlie claims Harris pushed him into a bathroom, slapped him in the corner and asked to have sex with him. Shortly after, Charlie confided in his brother what happened, and then Harris allegedly started harassing Sam as well. Both brothers were afraid to tell their mother, Kristen, as they did not want her to report the incidents; they did not want to lose their cheerful community and friends because of the accusations.
The show interrupts the tough interviews with Harris’ career highlights, from winning the ACA 2019 competition to interviewing celebrities on the red carpet. Charlie cites Harris’ interview with President Joe Biden as his push to come forward. In May 2020, the boys’ mother called Angela Rogers, the co-owner of Cheer Athletics All-Star Gym (along with Brad Habermal, Cheetahs coach). Encourage), where Harris trained, to tell her his concerns. She also filed two anonymous complaints to the United States All Star Federation, the governing body of All Star Cheer, claiming that nothing happened as a result of the reporting. But it was not until August 2020 that she filed reports with the FBI and spoke with USA today. The USASF released an update on Harris after the news came out in September 2020, showing an “active action” timeline for the anonymous reporting. The transcript shows that the organization instructs Kristen to file law enforcement reports, but did not specify what actions were specifically taken with Harris.
Gabi Butler, one of Harris’ best friends and teammates, bursts into tears when she talks about her friend. “My heart sank completely,” Butler shouts in one episode. She calls Harris “family” and says she “can not turn her back on him.” “We all thought we knew every little part of him when we did not, and losing that person is a lot,” said teammate Maddy Brum. When the accusations surfaced, his teammates expressed guilt for not knowing what happened to Harris and that they could not help him. Coach Monica Aldama she says was alerted during a dress rehearsal of Dance with the stars by an executive producer. She describes having a Navarro team meeting over Zoom that night: “It really felt like a funeral.” At the time, the show cut off the victims’ lawyer, who says they “have no sympathy for her.”
Aldama reveals that Harris wrote a letter to her that she still “has not processed.” She says she has not written back to him because she “does not know what [she] would say “to him. Harris’s legal team refused to be interviewed for the show. He is currently detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago and awaiting trial in February 2022. Vulture has reached out for a comment from Harris’ lawyer.
La’Darius Marshall left Navarro in February 2021, citing the “toxic” cheerleading culture of his exit. He accused coach Monica Aldama of physical and mental abuse and said she did not support. In episode six, Marshall says Aldama “forgot where she came from” after returning to Navarro from her Dance with the stars appearance. He claims he told Aldama his concerns about the assistant coach’s ability to coach the team and it was ignored. “If things don’t work out, learn to give up,” he says of his decision to leave the team.
When Aldama is asked about her quarrel with Marshall, she says it ended because he and assistant coach Kailee Peppers, who were previously on the same team as Marshall, quarreled over a dog. According to several different members of the troupe, Marshall Peppers asked to keep an eye on her dog for a semester, but she thought she would keep the dog. The situation escalated, and Peppers claims he threatened to break her door down. He claims he knocked “three” times and could hear Peppers exaggerating the situation on the phone. Other teammates report, claiming that Marshall tried to get Peppers fired, but when that failed, he left the team.
Later, in the episode nine finale, Marshall returns to support Navarro at Daytona. He has a heart-to-heart talk with Aldama about what happened between them. “I feel like you’re like a child to me and it just really hurt,” Aldama says of their clash. Marshall says he did not believe Aldama was violent and he felt hurt that she “did not listen” to him when he expressed concern about the team.
Yes! After their heart-to-heart in episode nine, the two apologized and forgave each other. Aldama and Marshall follow each other on social media, and he has promoted the show on Instagram.