By Ken Reed
I’ve always thought that the use of cheerleaders by professional sports franchises was disgusting. The practice clearly exploits and objectifies women. Despite the thousands of female football fans in attendance at games and watching on television, NFL cheerleaders were designed simply to satiate the stereotypical male team sports fan’s three primary desires: babes, beer, and balls (sports). Since the advent of the scantily-clad Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in the early 1970’s, providing those three things for male customers has long been the formula for the NFL (and the NBA as well).
But until reading Patrick Hruby’s eye-opening piece, I didn’t realize how degrading and exploitative NFL franchises could be when it comes to their cheerleaders.
This excerpt provides a quick — and representative — overview of Hruby’s piece:
This year, current and former cheerleaders from five different NFL teams have filed lawsuits against their employers, alleging (among other things) that the teams failed to pay minimum wages, instead paying as a little as $2.85 an hour; that they forced cheerleaders to cover their own business expenses; that they imposed illegal fines for workplace infractions such as gaining five pounds; that they auctioned off cheerleaders as golf tournament prizes, which meant sitting in men’s laps; that they required cheerleaders to sell at least 30 copies of a swimsuit calendar but shared none of the profits; and in the case of the Buffalo Bills, that cheerleaders were subjected to a weekly “jiggle test,” in which cheer coaches “srutinized the women’s stomach, arms, legs, hips and butt while she does jumping jacks.” That lawsuit, against the Bills, also references a cheer squad handbook that explains in detail how to wash one’s vagina.
I’ve never liked the concept of cheerleaders, at any level. I think the whole institution is a relic from a much more sexist era (think 1950’s). The message is clear: boys play sports and girls go to the sidelines and cheer for the boys — and try to look cute, of course. I wouldn’t mind seeing cheerleaders at all levels, including high school, go the way of the dinosaurs. It’s a sports tradition we simply don’t need anymore.
But at least high school cheerleading has some redeeming value, NFL cheerleading doesn’t. The whole practice is simply shameful.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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