UPDATE Wednesday, Oct. 23: Three new developments in this story this morning:
- The father of the cheerleader told The Mercury News football players at Wilcox High threatened a teammate for providing the family with screenshots that corroborate the alleged slurs against his son.
- The father said his son stayed home from school Tuesday. “I’m not sure how they are going to” protect “his safety when it’s time to go back to school,” the father said in a text Tuesday.
- Santa Clara police confirmed they are now investigating. “What we can say is that we are investigating reports of inappropriate conduct and determining if it rises to a criminal matter,“ police Capt. Wahid Kazem told The Mercury News.
ORIGINAL REPORT, Tuesday, Oct. 22: A 14-year-old boy who is a cheerleader at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, Calif., kept cheering even as his own school’s football players reportedly called him “gay” and “fag” and threatened him and a female cheerleader on Friday.
The verbal abuse started at an afternoon pep rally on campus and continued during that night’s game, the boy’s father told The Mercury News. “We are fearful for his safety — now more than ever,” his dad said.
The cheer team reportedly responded to the threats and slurs with a protest, “refusing to hold up banners the players run through to enter the field” at the start of Friday night’s game, according to The Mercury News.
Despite the alleged threats, the freshman — whose name hasn’t been published in news reports because he is a minor — reportedly ignored his parents’ fears and cheered at the game that evening. But the chants of “fag” resumed at half-time, and after that, the boy’s big sister took him home. She issued a warning on Twitter to the players who chanted: “watch ur fucking back.”
It was reported the sister is the cheerleading squad’s former captain, who graduated high school last year. Outsports is concealing her identity because revealing her Twitter handle could potentially reveal the name and identity of the male cheerleader. We concealed his name in another one of her tweets, in which she shared a photo of a cake that said: “We love that you are gay!”
An anonymous person launched a Change.org petition Sunday, demanding an investigation and calling for consequences. So far, more than 5.200 supporters have signed-on. The petition says, in part: “Despite the fact that the cheerleaders spend hours of their day cheering on various sports teams, these football members thought it appropriate to be cruel and harass a single cheerleader based on their biases and prejudice.”
School officials told The Mercury News they are investigating the allegations as a case of bullying.
“We are aware of an allegation about a bullying incident that happened during a school rally on Friday,” said Santa Clara Unified School District spokeswoman Jennifer Dericco. “Our goal is to make sure that all parties are offered a fair investigation. Depending on the outcome, there could potentially be consequences, and we’ll follow our board policy for that.”
The boy’s father says his son has been bullied and called other slurs by classmates over the last month. He confirmed that his son declared that he is gay in a tweet following the incident, and called his son “so courageous.”
“Even after everything that happened, he went back and faced it,” the father told The Mercury News. “He has a responsibility to his team and to the school. He’s out there to cheer the football team, and this is what they do.
“He just wanted to do the sports he likes,” said the father. “He just doesn’t want to be treated differently.”
On Monday, the boy returned to school and attended a meeting with his father, the school’s principal, Kristin Gonzalez, and a school district representative. Although the cheerleading coaches declined to comment, the Mercury News quoted a “source close to the football team” as dismissing the family’s complaint as just a misunderstanding.
This source claims the crowd and football players chanted, “Hey, Hey, Hey!” while waving arms back and forth, and suggested the cheerleader might have interpreted the chants as, “Gay, Gay, Gay!”
“This is far from a misunderstanding,” said the father.