The League

Dawn Knight
Author

Dawn Knight

The author of Taliaferro: Breaking Barriers and a high school English teacher.

More Than Short Skirts

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I tried out for the cheerleading squad in 7th grade. I was a shoo-in. I had been in gymnastics for years and would look fine in a short skirt. I didn't make it. I told myself it was because one of the judges had picked her little sister and her little sister's friends, and that's probably true. But really, I just wasn't cut out to be a cheerleader. So, I'm probably not the most objective source, which is why I surprised myself when I decided that the NFL would not be better off without cheerleaders.

I'm sure there are people out there who would want me to bring up the whole women- shouldn't-be-objectified argument. Others, that cheerleaders may not be the best role models for our daughters to emulate. I couldn't help but think about the former Colts cheerleader turned radio personality, who is now doing commercials for a local plastic surgeon about her successful breast augmentation. And as far as the actual cheerleading goes, I have yet to see any real successful leading of cheers. In fact, these attempts are largely ignored during the games.

However, there are plenty of reasons why I think cheerleaders are a necessary part (I almost wrote necessary evil, but I decided to be nice) of the NFL. For one thing, cheerleaders give male fans something to watch when their team isn't playing well, a happy diversion. And women NFL fans already have plenty of men in tight pants to watch, so that's only fair.

In all seriousness, it would not be fair to judge the cheerleaders based on a stereotype. The NFL cheerleaders are a diverse group of women. They are, for the most part, young and beautiful, but many are also highly educated, sophisticated individuals. I'm glad times have changed enough to look beyond the short skirts.

Part of the atmosphere of going to an NFL game is the cheerleaders. They're a part of the noise and the background. The experience wouldn't be the same without them. They also attend public relations functions outside of the games, which help promote the NFL. And, they're part of its history. I can't stand the Dallas Cowboys (sorry Cowboys fans), but it's impossible to picture the Cowboys without the Cowboys cheerleaders. All this and they only make about $50 a game.

If that weren't enough, according to my husband there are four things men love: beer, food, live sports and women, and the NFL combines all four. Maybe the MLB should think about adding cheerleaders to its payroll.

By Dawn Knight  |  September 2, 2009; 7:55 AM ET  | Category:  Cheerleaders , Indianapolis Colts , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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$50 a game. Absolutely disgraceful. The vendors get paid more than that, for crying out loud.

Either pay them what they're worth--these women are terrifically talented and work their butts off--or stop the whole program. It's not as though these teams can't afford it, for what they gouge the fans.

Posted by: NYC123 | September 2, 2009 5:32 PM

"In all seriousness, it would not be fair to judge the cheerleaders based on a stereotype. The NFL cheerleaders are a diverse group of women. They are, for the most part, young and beautiful, but many are also highly educated, sophisticated individuals. I'm glad times have changed enough to look beyond the short skirts."


If they're really highly educated, sophisticated, and whatever other bs you're selling, shouldn't they be doing something a little more useful than getting oogled?

Posted by: ihatelogins | September 3, 2009 12:05 AM

The NFL cheerleaders are a diverse group of women. They are, for the most part, young and beautiful, but many are also highly educated, sophisticated individuals.

And most importantly they are doing something we seem to no longer require of our young people; they are physically active and for this fact alone, and the skyrocketing obesity rates among young people today, cheerleading should never be discouraged.

Posted by: noaxe397 | September 3, 2009 2:33 AM

Good point. The owners are making hundreds of millions each year. The gals should be paid a hell of a lot more!

Posted by: charley42 | September 3, 2009 5:01 AM

I remember going to a few football games with my family when I was a little girl in the '70's. I was not able to identify the feeling at the time, but looking back, I felt demeaned by the experience of seeing women on the sidelines (literally and figuratively), being nothing more than props in this testosterone world. I got lots of messages like that, and I learned to despise cheerleaders and everything they represent. As an adult, I am a football fan, but it makes me sick to my stomach to see those cheerleaders. Liberated? I don't think so. They are sell outs.

Posted by: ncvirgie | September 3, 2009 5:10 AM

I don't care one way or the other, but the facts are (a) they're cute (b) they're athletic (c) they enjoy doing it (d) men enjoy looking at it.

As to the people who feel "demeaned", you could find people who are demeaned by chicken soup if you looked hard enough. But the fact is, you cannot be demeaned by what someone else does. You can only be demeaned by what happens to you. The people saying that sound like they really do have issues, but it's with themselves.

Keep 'em!

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | September 3, 2009 5:48 AM

"I'm glad times have changed enough to look beyond the short skirts."

Short skirts? How about less clothing than I wear for underwear (and I'm on the slim side). All of the "highly educated, sophisticated individuals" whom I know would never spend so much time trying to look like clones with barely any clothing (men or women) and then be so poorly compensated. This is more than a hobby so they should be paid more than $50 a game. Does that even cover gas and hairspray? Good for them that they are physically fit, but again, the "highly educated, sophisticated individuals" whom I know are also physically fit, but they wouldn't waste their time on such a pursuit.

Posted by: howdydoody1 | September 3, 2009 7:55 AM

$50 per game is what they're worth. But they get a lot of appearance fees, this is where they make money. Vendors don't get appearance fees.

Posted by: madstamina | September 3, 2009 8:07 AM

The cheerleaders could earn a lot more than $50 a game if they allow drunken fans to stuff cash into their outfits. The cheerleaders would make even more in tips if they wore pasties and G-strings.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | September 3, 2009 8:35 AM

Cheerleaders are great, are not in it for the pay, get to go to the games, have some fun, and get some visibility. They are competitive spots, meaning that it's generally considered an honor to make the cut. Most have full time employment somewhere else, many are professionals, and some manage to parlay the experience into meaningful careers.

As far as the fans go, I like them!

How can someone feel demeaned by them? Do people feel demeaned by professional dancers? What about actors? Do people feel demeaned by dishwashers? After all, they all get paid for either art or physical work? (we don't all agree on what art is, by the way)

How can anything someone ELSE does make YOU feel demeaned? Sounds like a low self esteem. And not on the part of cheerleaders.

Posted by: postfan1 | September 3, 2009 8:55 AM

ombudsman1 said:

"But the fact is, you cannot be demeaned by what someone else does. You can only be demeaned by what happens to you."

The first half is right. The second sentence should be somethong like:

You can only be demeaned by your own actions, including how you choose to react to things you see and hear.

Posted by: angusgoodson | September 3, 2009 9:09 AM

Cheerleaders serve no purpose in professional sports. I grew up loving a team that doesn't have cheerleaders, and when I attend games with them, it annoys me more than anything. I watched a guy at the Redskins/Steelers game take his camera and zoom in on one particular cheerleader throughout the entire game. It was creepy at best. Was he there to watch the game or to ogle the cheerleaders?
Yes they may be educated, professional women, but do they need to be out wearing skimpy outfits, flinging their long hair around? What kind of role model are they? I know someone who tried out for the Redskinettes, and was told to come back after she had breast implants. Seriously!
Football is football and I never sat at a game where there weren't cheerleaders feeling like anything was missing.

Posted by: meliss2670 | September 3, 2009 9:48 AM

Not only do the "professional" cheerleaders not get paid by the team, they actually have to buy a ticket to the game!

Posted by: buffysummers | September 3, 2009 9:49 AM

Hooray Patriarchy!

Posted by: distance88 | September 3, 2009 9:50 AM

Short skirts? How about less clothing than I wear for underwear (and I'm on the slim side)...

Posted by: howdydoody1

====================================

People like you are the reason that little girls end up anorexic/bulimic.

I have no patience for bigots like you. So I guess in your world women who aren't on the slim side should wear more clothes? They can't be sexy too? Please enlighten us as to what size is the tipping point after which women can't wear skimpy clothes.

Posted by: ProfessorWrightBSU | September 3, 2009 9:53 AM

Cheerleaders at a high-school level and at small basketball arenas at the college level, perhaps, but the cheerleaders at the professional level serves no purpose other than to entertain mindless drunkards and creepy people - that is, the ones that can see them, to most people attending a game at these mammoth structures these women look like jumping fleas. What grown-up woman want to be a cheerleader? An exhibitionist or one that is hoping to win the lottery by catching a young professional player's eye.

Posted by: hock1 | September 3, 2009 10:59 AM

This is not something I would want my daughter to be doing for $50 a game. Who cares what the NFL thinks, it's a shame these women don't think enough of themselves to quit.

Posted by: SarahBB | September 3, 2009 11:06 AM

Oh for cryin' out loud... There are more pressing women's issues than NFL cheerleaders. I would like to point out to Dawn Knight that if cheerleaders are well-educated, that's terrific, but I doubt you'll hear any NFL fan look at a cheerleader and yell, "Wow, check out the Ph.D. on THAT babe; that is HOT!" ;)

Posted by: clairemdc1 | September 3, 2009 11:17 AM

Let's see--what's more offensive or a worse role model for our children? Overpaid guys sterioded out to the nth degree, or underpaid women, who've been physically altered by cosmetic surgery? Kind of a hard question. Maybe the question sums up professional sports in this country. Either way, there's an awful lot of money made off of the players and the cheerleaders so nothing will change. Next subject.

Posted by: dnealesq | September 3, 2009 11:22 AM

NFL cheerleaders get tons of exposure that they couldn't pay for if they tried.

And many are very bright. I know at least one with an MBA.

Posted by: bug45 | September 3, 2009 12:18 PM

As a lifelong Redskin fan I have always looked forward to going to games and watching these cheerleaders perform and lead the fans in song and dance moves to the home team. Cheer leading is as much a part of traditional football as the game itself and all of sports have morphed into a large entertainment spectacle anyway so what the heck?

The flesh vetting of the selectors of these girls now are such that they look for large chests, and exposed camel toe on these girls and always smiling for the camera no matter what the temperature on the field. This all started with the Dallas Cowboy cheer leaders, and has rippled into every team that takes the field.

Posted by: Sideswiped | September 3, 2009 12:40 PM

Stop the whole program. They dont "lead any cheers" and all they do promote is lust.

Posted by: US-conscience | September 3, 2009 12:55 PM

Many years ago, I was told that the reasons NFL football is so popular is that it combines all the things of modern corporate America: sex, violence and committee meetings!

I've known a few NFL "cheerleaders." Most have not been cheerleaders in high school or college...they've been members of dance teams ("Poms"). What they do on the NFL field is dance and look sexy. Very little has to do with the gymnastic cheering now on the sidelines of high school and college sports.

Posted by: hfmd | September 3, 2009 1:17 PM

To the poster who "is sick to their stomach" when they see cheerleaders - that's all about you, not them. As if there weren't enough real problems in this world to feel sick over. Cheerleaders? How horrible.

Posted by: martintomsal | September 3, 2009 1:40 PM

People like you are the reason that little girls end up anorexic/bulimic.

I have no patience for bigots like you. So I guess in your world women who aren't on the slim side should wear more clothes? They can't be sexy too? Please enlighten us as to what size is the tipping point after which women can't wear skimpy clothes.

Posted by: ProfessorWrightBSU

--------------------

Muffintops require more clothes.

Posted by: theobserver4 | September 3, 2009 2:12 PM

Hey ProfessorWrightBSU ,

I think HowdyDoody was suggesting that becaue he/she's on the slim side his/her underwear doesn't use up much fabric, thus illustrating the minute amount of clothing modern cheerleaders wear. I think you should apologize for calling him/her a bigot.

Posted by: kovmi | September 3, 2009 2:14 PM

"$50 per game is what they're worth."

No, $50 a game is not what they're worth. These dancers work very, very hard to get the choreography perfect--likely they work harder, and are better trained in dance (including jazz, hip hop and modern) and tumbling, than you or I. They also must reaudition every year to stay on the squad. Any one of them could go to Vegas and work as showgirls, which is a unionized industry (AGVA) and therefore pays quite well, or dance on Broadway, also unionized (Equity).

Going by industry standards, they're shockingly underpaid. It's only because the focus is on the players (i.e., the men) that these young women are being so exploited.

Oh, and if we're worried about the example the cheerleaders set--worry about the players instead. When was the last time you heard about a professional cheerleader carrying a gun into a club and accidentally shooting herself, murdering helpless dogs for profit, or shooting into her pregnant girlfriend's car?

Posted by: NYC123 | September 3, 2009 2:40 PM

The cheerleaders are hardly exploited. Cheerleading is a great way for a young woman to advance her career interests if she is interested in a career as a singer, dancer, model, actress or trophy wife.

There is more to compensation than the amount of cash that changes hands - career advancement is compentation too.

Posted by: ZZim | September 3, 2009 5:07 PM

Torn on this one. Wouldn't want a woman I cared about to become a cheerleader and I think that the compensation is ridiculously low.

But if the women involved enjoy it, it is a fairly harmless (albeit sexist) tradition. There are many more important things to worry about.

Not crazy about it, but wouldn't go out of my way to stop it, either.

Posted by: ANetliner | September 3, 2009 9:25 PM

All you demeaned, appalled, horrified and just plain disgusted people need to get a LIFE! I hate to say it, but until recently Dallas had the BEST, but my Skins are certainly moving in the right direction.

I really don't care if they are there or not, because when the team is on the field I can't see anything but my BOYS (Redskins), but I do notice them from time to time, you know when they flash on the JumboTron and such.

They are ambassadors of good will(Priceless), although I don't think Chippendale sends anybody over to Iraq for the troops?!?!

Everybody loves to look at a beautiful girl/woman, if that's not you then it's not you. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, the biggest hit show 3 years running is a show called Ugly Betty, so if you want to talk demeaning.

Of course the actor that plays her is Beautiful, so I will save that for another time.

Posted by: soupbonne | September 4, 2009 8:21 AM

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