Is cheerleading a sport?

So, I wasn’t actually going to blog about the “cheerleading is not a sport” decision recently handed down by a federal court, but I like the good old-fashioned social connection aspect of the story.  The writer of the story, Leah Friedman, is a regular attendee of a lunch of media types sponsored by Damon Circosta and including your’s truly (studying the media counts).  Leah (who’s really cool, by the way) mentioned she was working on this story and we had an intersting discussion about it.  I also realized that my friend at NCSU, Amanda Ross-Edwards, is as much a Title IX expert as there is.  End result, the good story is even better with some great insight from Amanda.  My thoughts on the cheerleading as sport thing?  I was somewhat persuaded by what the judge had to say:

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill acknowledged that “competitive cheer” may qualify as a sport under Title IX in the future. “Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students,” Underhill wrote.

Sounds reasonable enough to me.  The NCAA is also not pushing it, which seems somewhat telling:

Jennifer Royer, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis-based NCAA, which oversees college sports, said cheerleading is not on the NCAA’s list of emerging women’s sports, which includes rugby, sand volleyball and squash.

That list, Royer said, is intended to help schools provide more opportunities for women. For a sport to make the list, 10 schools must sign a petition, and then a certain number of schools must offer it. Recently women’s equestrian and bowling graduated from the list to become recognized as NCAA sports.

That said, I enjoyed Amanda’s take, especially since she has lived in Connecticut and here:

Amanda Ross-Edwards, a professor at NCSU who teaches a public policy and sports class, said that if you look at the definition of sport – being competitive, physical and organized – then cheerleading is one.

The court case’s location may have affected the outcome, Ross-Edwards said

“Had this been in Texas or North Carolina, I think the decision would have been different,” she said.

Anyway, at least for now, cheerleading is, legally speaking, not a sport.

UPDATE: In comments, Big Steve makes a nice point, “Since cheerleading has a rate of casualties far higher than any other female athletic type activity, I consider it a sport. Chess tends not to produce concussions” and also links to a rather nice post of his on the nature of girls and sports (it’s good stuff, you should read it).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Is cheerleading a sport?

  1. saideman says:

    NCAA standards need some work (at least I thought so months ago: Since cheerleading has a rate of casualties far higher than any other female athletic type activity, I consider it a sport. Chess tends not to produce concussions.

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