Why do I have to keep doing this?
Today, KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett made a ~spicy~ comment regarding sideline cheerleaders at football games this fall, titling them “non-essential”, in a follow-up regarding what he sees at the “problem” at football games, which includes fans and non-essential individuals.
KHSAA commissioner Tackett: “Cheerleaders are not essential at a football game. They are nice, but not essential.”
— Cougar Sports on K105 (@K105sports) September 16, 2020
Well, something isn’t adding up to me.
No one is here to say that cheerleaders are an indispensable part of a football game. The players can indeed play without them, and I will be the first to admit that. However, to be frank, none of this is technically essential. We can live a life without high school football, although we may not want to.
Where I find a problem is the reasoning behind allowing one set of athletes to continue on and not another, discriminating against a certain group that were referred to as “nice to have.” Don’t even get me started on the internalized misogyny in that statement.
When KHSAA released their guidelines, the very first page includes justification for bringing back high school sports. Here’s a look:
“[We at KHSAA] believe it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of students to return to physical activity and athletic competition.”
Yes, it could be considered essential for physical and mental well-being. But this poses the question that has me take issue with what Commissioner Tackett said this morning: Why is the physical and more importantly the mental well-being of one group of athletes more important than another? Could it be yet another case of the old “cheerleading is not a sport” mentality? I really thought we cleared that up the last time we had to do this, but I guess Commissioner Tackett didn’t see that story.
The guidelines go on to cite personal relationships with coaches and athletes, stating it has “never been more important” in light of the pandemic. I’m sorry, but aren’t cheerleaders capable of having relationships with their coaches? Can only football, basketball and baseball — the “real athletes” — have mentors who also happen to be their coaches? Cheerleading must be too superficial for that. I just can’t seem to understand how as a society we justify letting male athletes run into one another and sweat all over the place in the middle of this global pandemic, but letting cheerleaders stand on the sidelines apart from one another is where the “problem” starts. Double standard, maybe? Is KHSAA actually considering the mental well-being of both groups? Or is it using that justification when its convenient for them?
For those who are saying “But they still have competitive cheer, Abbi! They’ll have their moment!” yes, there were guidelines released today to begin that season. But who knows where we will be when it’s time for those competitions, which culminates in the state competition that usually takes place in December. Typically, teams begin practicing for these competitions in May or June. This year, they get to start on September 21st, about a month and a half from when regional competitions traditionally begin each year. We don’t know enough at this point to even be able to promise these athletes what some may call “their” season. In fact, middle and elementary school competitions are already cancelled for the 2020-21 year.
Also, if we are to get to the root of the issue, the “problem” Commissioner Tackett is referring to, which I assume is health and safety for student athletes, it’s important to consider the risk each individual is posing to themselves and those around them.
Sideline cheerleading is considered a low-risk activity.
Football is considered high-risk.