The NFL Should Ban Cheerleaders

Not having the pompom brigades at the Super Bowl is something I can cheer about

More than a dozen years ago, when my daughter Marcy was seven, she begged me to let her join a Police Athletic League cheerleading squad with her best friend, Jessica. Jessica’s mom was pretty excited about cheerleading, and I went along with her and the girls for the first practice session. Real live high-school cheerleaders had donated their time to show up the local rec center for the event. Jessica’s mom and I sat on the gym floor and watched as the newbies duly chanted along with their mentors: “Our team is red-hot!” And then, just like their elders, they licked their pointer fingers, touched them to their rears, and made a hissing sound.

I never in my life got up off a gym floor so fast.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I shouted, while Jessica’s mom and the large and small cheerleaders stared at me. “Don’t you think that’s inappropriate?”

“Inappropriate how?” Jessica’s mom asked, nonplussed.

“Inappropriate sexually!” I stuttered.

Jessica’s mom looked at me as if I was deranged. “Honey, they’re seven years old.”

I thought of that moment when I learned that this Sunday’s Super Bowl will be cheerleader-free. It just so happens that the Steelers dumped their Steelerettes in 1969; owner Art Rooney said the team’s fans knew what and when to yell without being told. The Packers squelched their Packerettes in 1988, after a local radio station’s poll showed respondents split 50-50 over whether they should stay. (College squads sometimes step in to strut their stuff at home games.) So this will be the first Super Bowl ever not to have, on the sidelines, a bunch of scantily clad women screaming and shaking their pompoms whenever the camera pans past.

I love football. I watch a lot of football. And I found myself unable, when my kids were small and cheerleaders would appear on the TV screen, to explain what they were doing there, in their tight little shorts and cleavage-boosting tops. They didn’t actually lead cheers. They didn’t whip up enthusiasm for the game. They didn’t even make intricate human pyramids or do fancy tumbling runs, the way their college counterparts do. How, exactly, do you tell a seven-year-old, “They’re there to get men sexually aroused and inspire pornographic fantasies”?

I won’t miss having cheerleaders in Arlington on Sunday, lending their decorativeness to the real task at hand. In fact, I’d like to see a league-wide ban on the pompom brigades. They don’t add to the game, and every time they shimmy and shake those booties, they’re teaching seven-year-olds that a woman’s place in life is to stand on the sidelines looking pretty while men get things done.