Hundreds of cheerleaders performing at the UCA Northern California Regional Cheer competition remembered a local fellow cheerleader who ended his life last week because of bullying.
FOX40 is told he chose to join the cheer squad at Folsom Middle School, but last year switched to homeschooling because of the alleged bullying.
Saturday at the UC Davis ARC Gym Pavilion, hundreds of competitors held a moment of silence for Shimizu.
“It’s cruel that kids really judge other people by what they love,” former cheerleader Kennedy Smith said. “I mean, he isn’t hurting anyone, minding his own business. I really couldn’t believe it.”
Smith is a former football player-turned cheerleader, who now coaches for a local cheer gym. He said growing up, he also faced his fair share of taunting schoolmates.
“A lot of people were skeptical, like ‘why is he doing this?’” he remembered. “They would be joking around, they’ll say things behind my back, kind of like the negative stuff.”
Many in the cheer community asked why there was no double standard. If a girl is praised for throwing a faster pitch than the boys, why does a boy need to feel ashamed to cheer with the girls?
“Mo’ne Davis, is, she is amazing,” Smith said, about the talented female pitcher at this year’s Little League World Series. “She is out there with the boys, and she is doing it. There definitely is a double standard there. Any sport should be open to everyone.”
Sacramento State’s head cheer coach, Tony Oka felt the same.
“I went through it. I’ve been involved with cheerleading for 15 years now, just stick through it. Stick with what you love. If you love doing it, then do it,” Oka said.
Cheer squads have already reached out to Folsom Middle School and local clubs to spread awareness about bullying.
“We want to let people know that it’s not okay whether you’re a cheerleader or a football player or an artist, bullying is not okay,” Lauri Harris, the West Coast Manager of Varsity said. “We should be coming together to celebrate people’s differences.