Mr. Harris, who was a member of the cheerleading team at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, and at one time coached athletes at National Cheerleaders Association camps, gained acclaim on the Netflix series for his upbeat attitude and spirited pep talks and he had endorsement deals with Cheerios and Walmart. He made a guest appearance with other cast members on the Dallas stop of Oprah Winfrey’s nationwide wellness tour in February and held an Instagram chat with Joe Biden in June.
He “violated his role as a mentor, trainer, coach, sexually violated the Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit said, “and used his position of authority and power over the Plaintiffs.” It also states that three organizations — the U.S. All Star Federation, Cheer Athletics and Varsity Spirit — that employed Mr. Harris or that organized or oversaw competitions he participated in as an athlete or as a coach when the behavior is alleged to have occurred, did not do enough or act quickly enough to protect the boys.
Mr. Harris befriended the boys when they were 13 and Mr. Harris was 19, USA Today first reported on Monday. They met him while competing in national cheerleading competitions organized and overseen by Varsity Spirit and the All Star Federation and communicated with him in person, by phone and on social media.
According to the suit, they were “star struck” by Mr. Harris, who was nationally known as a cheer personality and coach. He asked for their phone numbers and Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat handles, and, the boys say in the lawsuit, the interactions became sexual in nature “almost immediately.” They also said that Mr. Harris asked that they send him “booty pics.”
The complaint accuses Mr. Harris of exploiting the fact that both boys were gay and says he began sending them sexually explicit messages, including photos of his genitals and videos of him masturbating, while continuing to demand that they send nude photos of themselves. At the American Cheerleaders Association Nationals competition in Fort Worth, in February 2019, the document says, Mr. Harris, who was 19, also told one of the boys, who was 13, to follow him into a bathroom. There, the suit says, he asked him to perform a sexual act.