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 #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – The guest is Gary McCoy, a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations. Our focus is the injury pandemic in baseball, what’s causing it and how it can be fixed.
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Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Episode #11 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Latest on Brain Trauma, Concussions and CTE with Dr. Chris Nowinski – Nowinski is CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO.
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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