DENVER — Public outcry, along with national coverage, haven't been lost on the former Denver East High cheer coach who lost his job after video surfaced of one of his cheerleaders crying out in pain during a seemingly forced stretch.
Ozell Williams, who faced firing on Friday from Denver Public Schools leaders, gave his first lengthy public comments since the controversial video surfaced early last week. The video showed a high school cheerleader begging for her teammates and coach to release her from a split stretch in which she was being held. The girl's mother eventually reached out to news stations, leading to Williams' eventual firing.
In his comments, he confirmed he will step back from his private teaching and coaching roles during the continuing coverage.
"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 said. "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 my athletes, and I want each one of them to feel safe participating in the sport we love."
Williams also touched on some of the harsh criticism he received from parents, teachers and possibly most importantly, experts in the field of cheerleading.
"The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators does not condone the coach's actions, and rejects them to the fullest extent," USA cheer and AACCA officials said after the videos surfaced. "Stretching should never be taken to the level of causing pain. Of even more concern is failure to act when it is clear that a cheerleader is in extreme pain and begging to stop."
In a response, Williams didn't say he would immediately change his tactics, but admitted he would reflect on the criticism.
"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," Williams said.