Denver police are investigating a jarring video shot at a cheer camp earlier this summer and has prompted major concern among parents whose teenage daughters are part of the program. The video shows a freshman cheerleader being forced by teammates and a coach to perform a split. The cheerleader can be seen and heard screaming for help and for the people around her to “please stop!” as she’s held down and forced to try to fully spread her legs on the floor. Five Denver public school officials have now been suspended as authorities are investigating.
The video was shot back in June and caused an outcry among parents who have called for action. But nothing happened until the parent of the cheerleader who shot the video sent it anonymously to a local news station. The girl seen in the footage is Ally Wakefield. In the clip, which is difficult to watch, Wakefield screams “please stop!” nine times in a 24-second span. All the while, she’s being held down and forced to do a split by at least four teammates and her coach, Ozell Williams, who is also a local celebrity known for his acrobatic tumbling routines performed at college football and Denver Broncos games.
Wakefield said she suffered a leg injury as a result of the incident. “He was pushing down on the back of my right leg,” Wakefield told 9News. “He was pushing .. like, with … his other knee on my back. It was tearing my ligament and my muscle at the same time.”
At least one other girl has quit the team after being forced into a similar situation. “I don’t understand why that’s allowed,” Cheri Nickolay said. Her daughter Anna, though not pictured in videos obtained by the news station, has left the team. Another cheerleader’s mother said watching the video “made me sick to my stomach.”
Tom Boasberg, the superintendent of the Denver Public School system, said the footage is “extremely distressing” and that Williams and his assistant coach, along with the school’s principal and an assistant principal and a school district lawyer, have all been placed on leave during the investigation.
Ally’s mother Kirsten Wakefield summed up the predicament other cheerleaders and their parents find themselves in. “This is a grown man pushing my 13-year-old daughter against her will.”
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