reality tv

How Netflix's Cheer lost its shine.

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

Netflix's Cheer initially seemed like the antithesis of much of the doom and gloom television often presents us. But the unlikely hit show has been marred by controversy.

The documentary series followed the elite cheerleading team of Texas' Navarro College, cleverly combining the emotion of the teams' personal stories with the visual feast of high-flying acrobatics, as viewers following their journey to the National Championships. 

The show won multiple Emmys and made its stars household names. Unfortunately, some of those names have now made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Watch: Cheer Season 2 Official Trailer. Post continues below.

Video via Netflix. 

The latest is the show's matriarch, Monica Aldama. She is the coach of the Navarro College cheer team on which the documentary is centred. Her son was this year accused of possessing child pornography.

According to court documents obtained by People Magazine, 27-year-old son William Austin Aldama, known as Austin, was arrested in January, charged with several counts of possession or intent to promote child pornography.


If he is convicted, each count could carry a prison sentence of two to 10 years.

But Aldama is not the first person connected to Cheer to be arrested on child pornography charges. 

In 2022, the show's breakout star, Jerry Harris, was arrested on felony charges of production of child sexual abuse images. Three days before the arrest, twin teenage boys filed a lawsuit alleging Harris sent them explicit photos. They also accused the star of cornering them in a bathroom and requesting oral sex, claiming the harassment began when they were just 13, and Harris was 19.

According to The Guardian, documents revealed Harris, now 24, admitted to asking one of the teens to send him photographs and videos of his penis and buttocks on Snapchat. He also admitted to requesting and receiving sexual abuse images from up to 15 other minors. 

Harris was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of receiving child sexual abuse material and one count of travelling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. He will be registered as a sex offender for life.

Jerry Harris. Image: Getty.


At the time Monica Aldama told the Tamron Hall Show that Harris' arrest "took the breath out" of her. She told The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she was especially heartbroken as a mother. 

"As a parent, I was heartbroken for those affected and, you know, it was definitely one of the major challenges that we faced, just keeping ourselves in a good state of mind, mentally to get through that."

Two years later, her son is facing the same charges. 


In 2021, two other cast members were accused of sexual misconduct with minors. 

Mitchell Ryan was arrested, accused of sexually assaulting a child in Coppell, however he wasn't indicted due to insufficient evidence. Coach and choreographer, Robert Joseph Scianna Jr was then arrested in Virginia, charged with solicitation. He pleaded guilty. 

In April last year, head coach Aldama was named in a lawsuit for allegedly concealing a sexual assault. Former squad member Madi Lane claimed she told the coach she was sexually assaulted by a teammate during her first semester. Lane alleged that Aldama told her to "not make this a big deal," which led her to quit the team. 

Aldama refuted the allegations. The lawsuit was later dismissed.

Even though it's been two years since the show ended, it remains one of Netflix's most controversial.

If this brings up any issues for you, contact Bravehearts, an organisation dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse, on 1800 272 831.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature Image: Netflix.