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Cheer Incorporated: The Village

“A community responsibility to future generations …”

Like most people who came of age in the 1990s, I learned the phrase “it takes a village” from the book penned by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Attributed to an African proverb, its true origin is unknown – but it seems most closely linked to the Kijita phrase “omwana ni wa bhone.”

Wherever it came from … it’s true.

We have a community responsibility to future generations. Which is why I get so pissed off when contemporary politicians keep passing the cost of their dumb decisions down to those generations.

Put another way, in addition to our obligations to our own children … we have obligations to children. You know, in general. Morally. As fiduciaries. As human beings.

Anyway … in the latest episode of the ‘Cheer Incorporated’ podcast (AppleSpotify), host Jenn Wood uses the “village” metaphor to describe the failure of the competitive cheer industry to fulfill its community responsibility to the underage athletes placed in its care.

“As parents, we all have the same goals, to keep our children safe and sound,” Wood said. “To protect them as they learn and as they grow.  To keep them away from people who would seek to manipulate or exploit them – or worse.”

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“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,” Wood continued. “Because THAT is the Golden Rule of the village.  And THAT is the kind of village it takes.”

Is that the kind of village that existed in the competitive cheer industry? No.

In addition to exploring the latest federal lawsuit filed in connection with this case, this week’s episode dug deeper into the so-called “gold standard” of child athlete safety protocols erected around the All-Star cheer industry. Specifically, it exposed how loopholes within those protocols turned these supposedly robust protections into invitations for systemic abuse.

The episode also included a repetition of our oft-issued invitation to Tennessee-based Varsity – the behemoth of the American cheerleading industry – and other defendants in these cases to access our open microphone.

“We are committed to calling it like we see it – but we are also committed to handing the microphone over to those accused in connection with this scandal, as well as those who wish to argue on their behalf,” I noted.

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The flood of lawsuits tied to the culture of sex abuse within the American cheerleading industry began two months ago with the spectacular implosion of Greenville, S.C.-based Rockstar Cheer.

Rockstar became the epicenter of the Cheer Incorporated scandal on August 22, 2022 when its late owner and founder, Scott Foster, died by suicide. The day after Foster’s death hit the news, I reported the 49-year-old coach was staring down “a multi-jurisdictional investigation into (among other things) allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls.”

We quickly learned it wasn’t just girls. And it wasn’t just Foster. And most importantly … it wasn’t just Rockstar.

An ongoing investigation into allegations against Foster – and other cheer coaches – is being led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s special investigations unit (HSI). As of this writing, no criminal charges have been filed in connection with the case.

Cheer Incorporated is written and narrated by Wood – our research director and resident cheer mom – and produced by our director of special projects Dylan Nolan. New episodes drop every Thursday, for those of you new to the format.

Once again, be sure to download and share – and submit a review if you like what you hear. Cheer Incorporated can be found on AppleSpotify or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

As always, thanks for listening!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Phillippe Randolph Folks)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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