“To my Downey Cheerleading Teammates

Maya Mercado-Garcia, Photographer

Within the Downey community, discussion surrounding team bonding was sparked when Downey Cheerleading parents and cheerleaders hosted a “Friendsgiving” on November 17, 2020. This discussion continued when they hosted their second gathering, “Friendsmas” on December 20, 2020.

 

The Tension Begins

 

On the night of December 20, 2020, Downey cheerleader Amberly Samano, 11, posted an IGTV video titled “To my Downey Cheerleading Teammates” after she saw her teammates host their second gathering. She was compelled to make an IGTV video where she addressed those in attendance and voiced her concerns towards these events hosted.

 

From her perspective, CDC guidelines were not followed; they were not six feet apart, and mask guidelines were broken, but by posting the images to social media, the reputation of Downey sports was in jeopardy. 

 

“This further feeds into the typical ‘cheerleader’ stereotype where the coaches on Downey Cheerleading have tried to mend,” Samano explained. “Despite the advice given by Ms. Rauls and the coaches, the team members and the parents decided to make the irresponsible choice of hosting these extremely risky gatherings which consisted of more than 10 people, no social distancing, and no masks.”

 

After DHS students began to question Downey cheer’s large gatherings, across various social media platforms, she felt the need to voice her concerns and provide insight from someone who has contracted COVID-19 herself. Samano explained her virus experience as out of her control and believed she contracted the virus from an immediate family member. 

 

“I wanted to use my personal experience with COVID to get my teammates to realize how irresponsible these gatherings were,” Samano explained. “I also chose to speak out on this because as a Downey cheerleader myself, people may find my opinion on this situation more credible rather than someone outside of the team.”

 

The Response: Negative or Positive? 

 

After Samano posted her IGTV video, the response was immediate as students from all over, not just Downey High, began to repost and share her video. The video has reached over five thousand views and has sparked an immense amount of conversation amongst DHS students and faculty. 

 

The comments under Samano’s IGTV were primarily positive feedback from students, applauding Samano for addressing her concerns; yet while a great deal of comments were in agreement with Samano, there were also comments claiming she was a “snitch.” 

 

Regardless, Downey students understood the impact of her video as well as the concerns. Rebeca Leon, 11, explains how as a student not on the cheer team, she felt as if she could not express the same concerns Samano had but is glad Samano was able to use her voice and make this video.

 

“I’m glad she called out her fellow teammates because it was long overdue,” Leon expressed. “It was their second holiday get together – second! I would like to thank Amberly again because it took a lot of courage and I’m glad she used her following on Instagram to bring awareness on things like these. Because of her, many finally came forward with the same opinions as her that thought they couldn’t express it before.”

 

The Aftermath 

 

It was not just those outside of the cheer team who understood the impact and concerns stated throughout her video. Some of Samano’s own teammates such as Jaqueline Rodriguez, 12, expressed how they were taken aback, but also understood Samano’s concerns and reason for her concerns.

 

“As Amberly’s teammate, I was definitely taken back by seeing someone on Downey cheer call out Downey cheerleaders and parents. I was extremely proud of her for speaking on an extreme relevant and urgent issues,” Rodriguez explained. “It has also forced me to reflect on how I have been treating COVID precautions.” 

 

Some of her other teammates such as Erin Garcia, 10, also expressed how she too was stunned but understood the concerns stated throughout the video. 

 

“While watching the video I did think there was one section that was a bit unnecessary,” Garcia stated. “While I was able to understand how serious COVID actually is and be held accountable, I think the whole ‘selfish and embarrassing’ section could have been presented a bit more maturely. It felt as if I wasn’t getting informed in that section of the video.”

 

It has become no question that Samano’s IGTV “To my Downey Cheerleading Teammates” has sparked conversation amongst the Downey community. Following Samano’s IGTV, Downey Cheerleading has not made any statements surrounding Samano’s concerns and no other gatherings have happened since.