FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 28, 2010
Is cheerleading a sport? A court in Connecticut hears arguments
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A Connecticut judge is considering a question that has moved from gyms and stadiums to a federal court: Is cheerleading a sport? That's not a frivolous matter -- not with big money and college athletic department budgets involved. At issue is whether schools can count cheerleading as a women's varsity team to meet federal gender-equity rules.
Judge Stefan Underhill, who began hearing arguments last week, had agreed to make the lawsuit a class action for all current and future female athletes at Quinnipiac. The wide-interest case focuses fresh attention on a 1972 federal law, called Title IX (the Roman numeral nine), that requires equal athletic opportunities for men and women. "This will be the first time any court has been asked to rule whether competitive cheer is a sport for Title IX purposes," says attorney Jon Orleans, representing the volleyball players.
Competitive cheer advocates say teams are made up of gymnasts and other true athletes, not pom-pon twirlers. Two commercial associations run championship events, and Quinnipiac is part of a new National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association formed by eight colleges. In a Wisconsin case not involving Tiitle IX, state Supreme Court justices last year declared cheerleading is a contact sport whose athletes assume certain risks of injury. But the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) doesn't consider cheerleading a sport.
Title IX says: A sport must have coaches, practices, competitions during a defined season and a governing organization. Competition must be its primary goal.
Cheerleader says: "I've played basketball, soccer, I've run track. It takes just as much physical skill and ability to be a cheerleader." -- Addie Michel, Indiana Tech University
Educator says: "No one wants to denigrate cheerleading, but should it be considered sport at the expense of legitimate women's competitive team sports? How would people react if the school cut a men's sport like baseball or lacrosse and used those funds for a male cheerleading squad?" -- Mary Jo Kane, University of Minnesota director of the Center for Girls and Women in Sports
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