Thursday, January 12, 2012

Two cheers for cheerleading?

"The Feminist Case for the NCAA's Recognition of Competitive Cheer as an Emerging Sport for Women" Free Download Boston College Law Review, Vol. 52, p. 439, 2011 Western New England University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-1

ERIN BUZUVIS, Western New England University School of Law

This Article examines whether a university can count opportunities in competitive cheer to demonstrate compliance with Title IX. A federal court in Connecticut recently considered this question for the first time. Although it held that the sport as it currently exists is not sufficiently similar to other varsity sports to qualify for Title IX compliance, the decision has mobilized two separate governing bodies to propose more organized and competitive versions of competitive cheer as possible NCAA emerging sports. This Article argues that these proposals would satisfy regulators and the courts. It then discusses how competitive cheer has potential to improve Title IX compliance, in a way that would benefit women?s sports generally, by expanding the definition of sport to include those that are women-driven and by reclaiming as sport an activity - cheer - that was initially deployed to separate women from athleticism. In light of these reasons, as well as the burgeoning interest in competitive cheer at the college and high school levels, the Article concludes that the NCAA should promote the growth of competitive cheer by endorsing it as an emerging sport for women.


Back in the day or, more precisely, back at Totem Junior High School, yours truly "lettered" in chess. I have to say that I was quite sympathetic to the thoughts that were surely going through the heads of the real jocks on the day of the letter-awarding ceremony, which is that the chess team should not have been involved in any way, shape or form. I am guessing that the NCAA does not (despite the endorsement of Totem Junior High) view women's chess as qualifying under title IX or we would observe many such teams, given how cheap it is to field a chess team. 

More broadly though, there are interesting questions here about what does, and what should, define a sport for the purposes of Title IX. One possible criterion would be caloric: my guess is that cheerleading burns substantially more calories than, say, golf, which is, I assume, an "official" sport. Or you could use whether or not there are professionals who make money to define sports, in which case cheerleading would qualify but swimming would not. Or you could ask whether having participated in a particular sport in high school or college has a measurable effect in a wage equation. I bet cheerleading passes that test as well. There is so much for the lawyers to do here, and perhaps some for the economists as well.

Hat tip: Charlie Brown

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