Cheer Incorporated exposes the institutional sex abuse scandal unearthed by Rockstar Cheer gym owner Scott Foster’s suicide in late August 2022. As more information surfaced it became apparent that Foster, as well as other coaches, would soon be facing public allegations of sexual abuse of minors. What wasn’t clear initially was that the misbehavior extends to the corporate entities and governing bodies responsible for ensuring the safety of Cheer athletes, and that they would soon be facing allegations of covering up years of sexual abuse to fatten up their bottom lines. Join investigative researcher and cheer mom Jennifer Wood, and FITSNews.com founding editor Will Folks on their journey to shine light in the dark corners of this industry with new episodes premiering every Thursday morning.
I recently read the book Armies of Enablers: Survivor Stories of Complicity and Betrayal in Sexual Assaults by Professor Amos Guiora. Professor Guiora teaches law at the University of Utah. Armies of Enablers encompasses his extensive research on institutional complicity, enabling culture, and sexual assaults.
What I loved the most about this book is that it was written from the perspective of the survivors of sexual assault.
I was elated when Professor Guiora agreed to be a guest on Cheer Incorporated. Because after reading his book and learning about his groundbreaking research, I strongly believe he may have found that common factor — or maybe more aptly the fatal flaw– that we are missing as a society to better protect our child athletes. He may have found the “why” - which is the key to finally stopping the cycle of abuse. Or at least slowing it down.
“It takes a village.”
As a parent, I developed a greater understanding of the implied trust we place in other parents - a truly sacred trust which holds that they are watching out for your kids as much as you are watching out for their kids.
The systemic failures of the cheerleading industry have shaken my trust.
Does the industry just not care? Or is enabling abusers simply too profitable?
In this episode we delve into who the USASF hired to "minimize the risk of child sexual abuse and misconduct."
The Cheer Incorporated team has been Murdaughed ... for those of you who aren't FITSNews core audience members, allow me to explain.
This expansive case involves Alex Murdaugh, a disgraced and disbarred attorney from a small town called Hampton, South Carolina, was indicted in July for the murder of his 52 year old wife, Maggie Murdaugh and 22 year old son, Paul Murdaugh at their home on June 7, 2021. The brutal murders alone would have made headlines, but the web of crime and corruption that started unraveling in the aftermath elevated the story to new heights. As of today, Alex Murdaugh has been indicted on 90 separate charges and accused of stealing almost $9 million dollars from his clients over the past 15 years.
This week, the first criminal trial tied to this long running story kicked off in US District Court in Charleston, South Carolina when the trial of alleged Murdaugh co-conspirator and former CEO of Palmetto State Bank began.
Federal prosecutors in the office of U.S. attorney Adair Ford Boroughs began laying out their case against disgraced former banker Russell Laffitte, who is accused of being a key cog in Alex Murdaugh’s many financial fleecings of former clients. Laffitte is facing one conspiracy count, one count of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud and three counts of misapplication of bank funds in connection with his alleged role in the scandal. The 51-year-old Hampton, S.C. native is also facing multiple criminal conspiracy charges at the state level. I’d give you a full recap, but if you aren’t familiar I can assure you that a 30 second elevator pitch will never cover the absolute madness of the Murdaugh case. If you love true crime and wild cases, trust me when I say you want to check out our YouTube Channel and/or the FITSNews Week in Review podcast available on iTunes and Spotify to catch up.
Now… I bet you are wondering why we are talking about Murdaugh and not cheer? Because our Producer, Dylan Nolan is in Charleston attending the hearings in person while Will and I are holding the fort down in Columbia. As talented as Will and I pretend to be, we rely on our producer, Dylan Nolan for all things technical and I promise you do not want to hear a podcast that we threw together without him! We will be back next week with more new episodes and may even have some exciting news to share!
Last week, this podcast shared the first part of our host Jenn Wood’s amazing interview with Kristen - the mother of twin boys who are survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by Jerry Harris, one of the stars of the hit Netflix show, Cheer.
We had intended to air the second half of that interview today but we’ve delayed that so we can turn our attention to some interesting legal moves by Tennessee-based Varsity.
This episode is going to be one you won’t want to miss...
Standing Up Alone - Twins' Mom Kristen Shares Her Story
Cheer Incorporated speaks with Kristen, the mother of the victims of Jerry Harris.
Harris was propelled into superstardom by Netflix’s hit show, Cheer. In July 2022 - a month before Foster’s suicide - Harris was sentenced to twelve years in prison for soliciting sex from minors and coaxing them into sending him obscene images and videos.
When we first began covering the Cheer Incorporated story, Kristen reached out to me via Twitter. She offered me perspective, insight, and kind words.
But she offered something else - something truly selfless. She offered to speak with any survivors or parents of survivors who needed support.
When Kristen kindly agreed to share her family’s story for this podcast, I was moved beyond words because I realized this is what a true advocate does …
Kristens story speaks to the culture of sexual misconduct that has run rampant in the cheer industry, and is inspiring to other survivors who are just beginning to walk down the trail she blazed.
The Groomer's Playbook
In this episode of Cheer Incorporated we follow the money as we ask why this isn't already a national news story. We then dig into the lawsuits and discover that many of the allegations fit the "groomer's playbook." Finally - we address the Varsity president's statement regarding the allegations, reiterating our open microphone policy while contesting some of his claims.
I think it’s good to shine a light and help victims feel safe to come forward but as some stories are being told some of us know specific and intimate details that would change some things and I don’t think this needs to be presented in the way it has been. It’s beginning to look like a venegeance against varsity and usasf and making money than changing to environment and giving people the strength to speak up. No predator is ever caught until someone comes forward and THAT is what we need more of if we want to truly protect these athletes
Change Must Happen
Keep shining the light! These people cannot continue to abuse our children. Kudos to Fitsnews and to the Strom Law Firm for your courage, commitment and willingness to fight for the vulnerable and defenseless and to not run from the monsters.
Great coverage of this complex criminal cover up. Having had a cheerleader in NC over a decade ago it hits close to home.