Friday, January 19, 2007

More on "Equal Cheers"

Several NY Times readers contributed opinions about last week's article about unfavorable reaction in upstate NY to OCR's mandate that they equalize cheerleaders at girls and boys games (which we posted on here). My favorite letter was from Donna Lopino, CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation, who writes in part:

As a society, it would be unthinkable to allow students to cheer only for white athletes and individuals without disabilities. Yet we have no problem providing cheerleaders to only men’s sporting activities.

Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of race, gender or ability. If the presence of cheerleaders helps motivate players and create a level of excitement at the games, shouldn’t we be fostering this type of atmosphere at all sanctioned sporting events?

When schools treat their athletes differently, they are creating a culture that emphasizes support only for the male athletes and devaluing the notion of women supporting one another. Is this the overall message we want to be teaching our children in school?

Lopiano's point is easier to understand when one draws the distinction between the activity of sideline cheerleading and the activity of competitive cheerleading. That some cheerleading squads engage in competition, either in addition to sideline cheering or as an alternative altogether, gives rise to valid arguments that cheerleaders should be treated as athletes instead of boosters. But the duality of cheerleading shouldn't obscure the fact that when the cheerleaders are performing in their sideline role, they are acting as as the school's agents of publicity and promotion, and as such, should be deployed in equitable fashion.

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