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Monday, April 23, 2018

Three Cheers for Convictions

Or…The Wrong Kind of “Fantasy” Football

What does a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader for her next job? I can only speak for one—whom we hired several years ago at a radio station in Dallas. She became our promotions director.

I thought about her recently after some negative media stories emerged about cheerleaders for pro teams. For example, the website wrote about the way Cowboy cheerleaders in this day have been told to “take it” when it came to groping or some forms of sexual harassment.

The story adds, “In interviews with dozens of current and former cheerleaders–most of them from the NFL, but also representing the NBA and the NHL–they described systematic exploitation by teams that profit by sending them into pregame tailgating and other gatherings where they are subjected to offensive sexual comments and unwanted touches by fans.”

Within days of that story, Fox News carried an interview with Kristan Ware. Kristan was part of the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad. She recently filed a complaint against the team and the NFL claiming discrimination over her Christian convictions.

Kristan spent three years with the team ending her cheerleading in 2017. In her view, she was held to a different standard. She felt her religious views and gender played a part.

According to the filed complaint, the Dolphin’s cheerleading director “ridiculed and disciplined her” after Kristan posted a photo of her baptism on social media. In a more extensive story in the New York Times, it was reported that Kristan claimed that she was mocked by other cheerleaders for sharing that she was a virgin and that she planned to remain so until marriage.

The Washington Post reported on Kristan Ware. The paper wrote that when Kristan posted a blog for the Dolphins’ website, “all mentions of her faith were removed except for a general reference to God. In her complaint, Ware stated that she was treated differently over her religious views compared to those of the players–who had a team chaplain.”

I was impressed that at the college level, male cheerleaders take a lead in protecting their female counterparts. A former Hawkeye cheerleader told me, “Thankfully we had a male partner who was kind of like a body guard on game days. We also had a male coach who was very protective of the female cheerleaders. The most common 'unwanted advances' were from people in the crowd who made unnecessary comments about appearance and such. Typically our coach or one of the game security people would tell them they need to back off/calm down.”

And our former promotions director, Lori Sandridge Pollitt, told me: “I find that for the most part, my memories are exclusively positive. I cheered for the Cowboys back during the Tom Landry years. Auditions to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader were grueling. Prior to my rookie year on the squad, close to 2300 girls representing 42 states, Canada, and Mexico set out to secure one of only 36 spots on the squad.”

Lori added, “Our director, Suzanne Mitchell, was known to be extremely tough on us and there were strict guidelines and rules we were expected to follow to the letter of the law. It was simple, abide by the rules or take your pom poms home.” Too bad times have changed.

For a young woman, I’m sure it seemed like such an honor to be selected as an NFL cheerleader. Travel. Lot of attention and even signing autographs at functions. Dramatic photoshoots. And, of course, the national television exposure on games. Perhaps all along we’ve suspected a dark side.

It’s about time we learned the truth about another kind of “fantasy football.” Sports teams need to know when to call a foul on this issue. And punish offenders…especially for illegal use of the hands.

Period. #HandsOff.

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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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