A cheerleading coach was mounted at the center of a firestorm this week after a video surfaced showing him forcing a cheerleader into a split as she cried out in agony.
Viewers were disturbed and outraged to see Ozell Williams practicing what he calls “breaking” with his team at East High School, in which he shoves squad members into the ground despite them begging him to stop.
The story led the Denver Public Schools Superintendent to place Williams — along with the school’s Principal, Athletic Director, assistant Cheer Coach, and the district’s Deputy General Counsel — on administrative leave.
Williams said the clip was “taken out of context,” but his controversial coaching history tells a different story — because this isn’t the first time he was fired for “breaking” his athletes!
On Thursday, Boulder High Principal James A. Hill sent a note home to parents, acknowledging that Williams had also been dismissed from a similar position at their school for doing the same thing.
Williams was a paid consultant for Boulder’s cheer team in 2015 and 2016. But after a parent complained about “breaking,” and another coach saw him force a cheerleader to do the splits, he was reportedly terminated from his post.
Similar reports of Williams’ violent coaching methods surfaced from an owner of a gym in Brighton who considered teaming up with the coach.
But after a week of watching him work with kids in her program, Julie Ledbetter changed her mind. She told 9NEWS:
“They would go to do things and if they would stop, like they would go into a tumbling pass and they would stop, and he would be like, ‘I’m going to punch you in the face if you don’t do it next time.’…You don’t tell kids you’re going to punch them in the face if they can’t pull the skill.”
Ledbetter said that she never saw Williams forcing splits on the girls, but she also never left her athletes alone with him.
The cheer squad at Boulder High wasn’t as lucky. Ally Wakefield, the 13-year-old cheerleader screaming in pain in latest video, says she tore a ligament and muscle from being held down.
Thankfully, it looks like Williams will be getting a permanent break of his own.
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