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‘Cheer,’ Plagued by Controversy, Wins Emmy for Outstanding Structured Reality Program

Emmy voting closed before Jerry Harris, star of Netflix's reality sensation, was charged with production of child pornography by the FBI.



Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix’s smash docuseries “Cheer,” centered on the members of an American cheerleading team in competition, has won the Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Structured Reality Program. Honors were handed out virtually on Saturday night. Voting for TV Academy members had closed before series subject Jerry Harris was arrested by the FBI and charged in federal court in Chicago for production of child pornography on September 17.

In the lead-up to Saturday night’s win, “Cheer” had already nabbed Emmys for Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program and Outstanding Directing for a Reality Program in the Creative Arts prizes unveiled throughout the week. The series also contended for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera), Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera), and Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program.

The charges against Harris, a member of the cheer team coached by Monica Aldama, allege that he solicited and received explicit messages via Snapchat from users he knew were minors. Per federal court records, the 21-year-old Illinois native is also suspected of having sex with a 15-year-old in 2019. A spokesperson on Harris’ behalf said, “We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is completed the true facts will be revealed.”

A Netflix spokesperson also added, “Like everyone we are shocked by this news. Any abuse of minors is a terrible crime and we respect the legal process.”

Navarro College, host of the cheer team on the Netflix six-part show, has said that Harris left campus in March amid the pandemic, and finished his degree in May. He reportedly did not return to Navarro in the fall.

Cast member Gabi Butler took to Instagram on Friday to share her dismay over the news surrounding Harris. “Like most of you, I am shocked, dismayed and deeply saddened by the recent news concerning my friend,” Butler wrote. “Ever since I heard the news I have gone back and forth between sobbing uncontrollably and trying to wrap my head around why something like this could happen. To be clear, although I have been a close friend and teammate with Jerry, I was never aware of anything like that he has been accused of taking place. I believe the protection of children is more important than ever in today’s world.”

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