August 7, 2012

Cheerleading is still not a sport

By Joshua P. Thompson Senior Attorney

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that competitive cheerleading is not a sport.  This is a very disappointing decision.  It is a slap in the face to the athletes that spend countless hours perfecting routines, and competing throughout the country.  The Court recognized that competitive cheerleading requires “strength, agility, and grace.” It recognized that “the competitive cheerleading team’s practice time, regimen, and venue were consistent with other varsity sports.”  Nevertheless, the court was unwilling to call it a “sport.”  After the jump, I will demonstrate why each of the court’s justifications for this conclusion are wrong, but before we get there, lets take a look at exactly what the court said wasn’t a sport.  You be the judge:

[I played basketball in high school and briefly in Europe;  I was never that athletic.  So why did the court conclude this was not a sport?]  Here’s what the court had to say.

1.   The NCAA doesn’t recognize competitive cheerleading as a sport or “emerging sport.”  This, of course, is a ludicrous reason to conclude something isn’t a sport.  Since it is olympics time, it might have interested the court to know that the NCAA doesn’t recognize a number of Olympic sports as “sports or emerging sports.”  To name just a few:  judo, badminton, triathlon, cycling, bobsledding, handball (I could go on).  Yet, the NCAA does consider bowling, golf, and rifle to be sports.  [It should go without saying that I have no problem with bowling, golf, and rifle being considered sports, but they help demonstrate the silliness of placing great weight on what the NCAA considers to be a sport.]

2. Quinnipiac did not conduct any off-campus recruitment for its competitive cheerleading team.  Why didn’t Quinnipiac recruit members for its competitive cheerleading team?  Well, the coach hadn’t passed the NCAA’s recruiting examination in 2009.  [It was a new sport.]  By 2010, the coach had passed the examination and began recruiting.  So, if anything, this factor should counsel in favor of competitive cheerleading being considered a sport.  The coach recruits, off campus, and had to pass an NCAA recruitment test to do so.

3.  No uniform set of rules  applied to competitive cheerleading competition throughout the 2009-10 season.   This is another half-truth.  Yes, many different orgnizations sponsor competitive cheerleading competitions, but, as the district court recognized, “all of the formats focused on the same skill sets and employed similar methods for judging teams’ performances.”  So what was the big gripe?  Well, apparently it’s just another way of saying the NCAA hasn’t recognized competitive cheerleading as a sport yet.  The Court wanted a “single overseeing body.”  Neither the players nor the coaches felt as though the competitions were wildly irregular, unexpected, or capricious.  Everyone was scored based on the same factors.  And if the NCAA isn’t going to create a monopoly on collegiate competitive cheerleading as it has with other sports, well, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there will be multiple organizations coveting this exciting competition.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a sport.

4. There was no progressive playoff system.  You know, like football.  Oops.

This is a very disappointing decision.  The school, to come into compliance with Title IX, was forced to cut men’s golf, men’s track and field, and women’s volleyball.   So it didn’t have to cut any more, the school created competitive cheerleading as a new varsity sport with a lot of participants.  This decision means that there are fewer recognized athletes than there could be.  At a school that already has to provide over 60% of it’s athletic opportunities to females, it’s only a matter of time before the next sport gets the ax.  Title IX, which should be about affording equal opportunity to both sexes, is all too often a mechanism for creating “gender balance” according to the the social ideals of politically interested bureaucrats.

This decision brushes aside the athletic abilities and dedication of thousands of women (and men) throughout the country.  Competitive cheerleading is a sport, and it should be recognized as such.

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