Citing media coverage, recently fire East High cheer coach Ozell Williams says he's taking a break of cheer and tumbling activities for the foreseeable future.
"Due to the news coverage currently ongoing about me," he writes on his Facebook page, "it is unfair to attempt to teach, mentor, or perform with this press situation and the pressures it would place upon my students, my mentees, and my sponsors."
Williams is referring to the story 9NEWS broke of the cheer coach caught on camera eight times over the summer forcing teens into the splits, often while they cried out in agony and begging him to stop. In the videos, other teens can be seen helping Ozell force the girls to the ground.
Commonly referred to as 'breaking,' this practice of forced splits was decried by industry professionals and Denver Public Schools' superintendent alike. Superintendent Tom Boasberg told reporters this past Friday at a press conference that what he saw in the videos was "wrong" and "dangerous and unacceptable."
"It gets worse every time you look at it to see that adults think that this is OK," said Kimberly Archie, the founder of the National Cheer Safety Foundation. She was critical of both Williams and the district.
Williams was let go Friday, per Boasberg. The principal and athletic director of East High remain on leave while the district looks into how this happened - and why nothing was done when a student complained back in June.
DPS district lawyer on leave because they knew something regarding the June East HS cheer complaint. #9News— Marshall Zelinger (@Marshall9News) August 26, 2017
Boasberg continued to call the video disturbing and said the incidents should have been reported to police two months ago when they were first brought to school staff.
Besides postponing his cheer and tumbling activities, Williams says he will focus on introspection in his post.
"Please know that in my absence, I will be working diligently to reflect upon the criticisms of my training and teaching methods," he writes. "I will strive to open the lines of communication and provide a supportive, healthy, safe training and teaching environment for my athletes."
Boasberg said in his press conference that Denver Police are investigating the videos and that he is not sure if any charges will be brought at this time.
Williams has also let 9NEWS know that he's received death threats and pictures of nooses in response to his cheer methods.
The text of Williams's post is reproduced in full below:
Due to the news coverage currently ongoing about me, it is unfair to attempt to teach, mentor, or perform with this press situation and the pressures it would place upon my students, my mentees, and my sponsors. With that, I have made the difficult, yet appropriate, decision to postpone my tumbling and cheer related activities and engagements. I have great respect and adoration for all of my athletes, and I want each one of them to feel safe participating in the sport we love.
Please know that in my absence, I will be working diligently to reflect upon the criticism of my training and teaching methods. I will strive to open the lines of communication and provide a supportive, healthy, safe training and teaching environment for my athletes.
For Parents and Athletes: I know an interruption in your training schedule is an inconvenience, and one I do not take lightly. Please know I will work with you to provide make-up sessions, or refunds/credits where appropriate.
Thank you for your support.
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