Cheerleading is seen as a positive activity since it boosts the morale of a team and displays athleticism. However, it also has a negative side. In this era, cheerleading is becoming less and less respected for a multitude of reasons. Some of them are: severe injuries are common, it promotes sexism, professional cheerleaders are underpaid, and it sometimes sexualizes girls who are underage.
It may sound ludicrous, but cheerleading is the leading sport for getting female students severely injured. Specifically, in 2008, a report by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research demonstrated that 65.1 percent of all catastrophic sports injuries in the U.S. over the last 25 years of high school female students were caused by cheerleading (“Risks of Cheerleading: Two-Thirds Of Severe Sports Injuries To Female Students Due To Cheerleading”). Also, it was reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that there were about 30,000 emergency room visits due to cheerleading in 2008 in the U.S. What is even more alarming is that the number of these happenings has increased six times in the last 30 years.
Cheerleaders often have to follow strict rules that can easily be said to be sexist. For example, they are given instructions on exactly what they can look like, what they can wear, who they can make friends with on the team, and even if they can be opinionated or chew gum. Some teams even monitor cheerleaders’ calorie intake, social media, and how they appear outside of their work. The standards are not the same for the male athletes they cheer for (Bennett, Jessica).
Even though they have to follow strict guidelines, professional cheerleaders are commonly not paid enough to compensate for their work or for their treatment. According to ESPN, since cheerleaders are often independent contractors, sports organizations do not feel the need to pay them enough to live on. And sadly, many cheerleaders from professional sports teams make even less than the minimum wage. In light of this, many sports agencies hire recent college graduates in order to get staff members that are willing to work for less (“Why Are NFL and NBA Cheerleaders Barely Earning Minimum Wage?”).
One of the most disturbing things about cheerleading is that it often sexualizes underage girls in middle and high school. These female students are not yet adults legally, yet they are wearing skimpy outfits and dancing in sometimes salacious ways in front of adult people and other students. The outfits they are made to wear are often deemed inappropriate. Even worse is that the culture surrounding cheerleading in school is that girls who make the team get to date more boys, which leads to more teenage pregnancies and earlier introductions to sexual activity (Hargreaves, Jennifer, and Eric Anderson).
To summarize, cheerleading is an activity that should not be done based on various factors: severe injuries are a usual circumstance with this sport, it promotes sexism, professional cheerleaders are underpaid, and it sexualizes underage girls. In my mind, these reasons outweigh the positive benefits that come from this sport.
Bennett, Jessica. “Most Dangerous ‘Sport’ of All May Be Cheerleading.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 4 Jan. 2010, abcnews.go.com/Nightline/cheerleading-dangerous-sport-young-girls/story?id=9473938.
Hargreaves, Jennifer, and Eric Anderson. Routledge Handbook of Sport, Gender and Sexuality. Routledge, 2016.
“Risks of Cheerleading: Two-Thirds Of Severe Sports Injuries To Female Students Due To Cheerleading.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 12 Aug. 2008, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080811200423.htm.
“Why Are NFL and NBA Cheerleaders Barely Earning Minimum Wage?” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, www.espn.com/espnw/voices/article/19454957/why-nfl-nba-cheerleaders-barely-earning-minimum-wage.