It’s one of life’s great unanswered questions: Is cheerleading a sport? Soon a federal judge in Connecticut will make a ruling in a Title IX case that may help solve this age-old mystery. From the New Haven Register:

It is unclear whether federal judge Stefan R. Underhill will offer an opinion on whether competitive cheerleading is a viable varsity sport or not. But, Underhill will have to decide whether Quinnipiac University can truly count it as one in his decision in the case of the women’s volleyball team against the school.

The two sides of the lawsuit brought before the U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union to determine if Quinnipiac violated Title IX parameters debated the merits of competitive cheerleading for much of Tuesday’s session, the second day of testimony.

Says the (male) tipster who sent this along:

I’d love to work on this trial… the exhibits could be great.

One of the cheerleading experts for the volleyball plaintiffs offered a spirited argument against cheerleading as a sport, comparing it to chess.

Please. Could Bobby Fischer do what those women above are doing for the Indians?

The argument, of course, is that cheerleading is not competitive. We suggest that the defense lawyers for Quinnipiac play excerpts from Bring It On and Fired Up! to help prove otherwise. Or submit ESPN 2’s cheerleading broadcast schedule as an exhibit.

If the District Court wants to look to state courts, there’s precedent in the Midwest for declaring cheerleading a sport. From Bob Cook at Your Kid’s Not Going Pro:

In 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared cheerleading was a sport — and a contact sport at that, in that competitors were in physical contact with each other. (And given the high injury rates for competitive cheer, you’d be safer on the football field instead.) However, that ruling wasn’t for Title IX purposes. It was to disallow a cheerleader’s right to sue the partner who failed to catch her, as well as the school and its insurance company to pay for treating her injuries.

Judge Underhill could throw that precedent up in the air, though, and choose not to catch it. Female sport advocates are hoping he lends his support to the volleyball players. From ABC News:

“The outcome of this case could have a chilling effect on women’s athletics programs if cheerleading is deemed a sport,” said Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center for Girls and Women in Sports at the University of Minnesota and a Title IX expert unaffiliated with the case.

“No one wants to denigrate cheerleading, but should it be considered sport at the expense of legitimate women’s competitive team sports? It’s a question of equality,” Kane said. “How would people react if the school cut a men’s sport like baseball or lacrosse and used those funds for a male cheerleading squad?”

The women volleyball players say a men’s team would never lose funding in favor of cheerleading and the players are the subjects of sex discrimination.

A argument against declaring it a sport: If you can balance being a professional cheerleader for the Rams with a full-time job as a business lawyer, perhaps cheerleading is just an extracurricular activity, not a sport.

Quinnipiac trial: Legitimacy of cheerleading as sport focus of plaintiffs [New Haven Register]
Is cheerleading a sport? [Your Kid's Not Going Pro / True/Slant]
Connecticut Trial to Determine If Cheerleading is a Sport [ABC News]

Earlier: Extracurricular Pursuits for Attorneys: St. Louis Rams Cheerleader


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