Maybe you’re familiar with the tragic story of Courtney Lenz, 23, the only veteran Ravens cheerleader – she’s been on the squad, like, literally forever, since she was 18 – who won’t be allowed to join the dance team in New Orleans for Super Bowl Sunday. Why? According to Lenz, it seems that Lenz had announced plans to retire at the end of the season and, therefore, the powers that be chose to ban her from the final pyramid. But close reading tells me it’s not as simple as that.
Maybe you’re on Lenz’s side all the way. (I was at first.) A petition on Facebook has already received almost 15,000 signatures.
According to the petition, the rah-rah pro announced she was retiring during the last home game of the season, which didn’t go over well with the director of the cheer program, who’d been hard on Lenz throughout the season, the defensive dancer told ABCNews.com. (Lenz recently graduated college and took a full-time marketing job.) Supposedly, all veteran cheerers were promised they’d attend the legendary game.
And yet Courtney Lenz is denied?!
“As set by the NFL, we are permitted to bring 32 cheerleaders to the Super Bowl,” Ravens spokeswoman Heather Harness said in a statement to ABCNews.com. “Our selection process was based upon three criteria: seniority, performance ability and personal conduct throughout the season. As much as we would like to take the whole team, we are unable to do so, due to parameters set by the NFL.”
Seniority, performance ability and personal conduct, check, check, check. Reasonable points.
Ask yourself one question: Why might a director or coach perhaps be in the mood to be hard on Lenz?
“[Courtney] was told she didn’t put in as many appearance hours this season as she did the past four years while in college,” says the petition. ‘They also stated she struggled with weight on occasion and she had been benched for [a] two-pound weight gain during a game earlier in the fall, which is absurd, unhealthy and a complete inaccurate measurement of a woman’s ‘appearance’ and size!”
Reps have denied that Lenz’s retirement had anything to do with their decision to leave her home in Baltimore to clap her hands in her purple armchair. Frankly, I don’t feel all that bad for the girl based on the information presented.
We don’t have the whole story, granted. But it sounds as if Lenz’s behavior throughout the season was lacking. Appearance hours matter when you’re a public figure and they matter when you are an active member of any organization that does work in the world – the Girl Scouts, the church choir, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Team players show up.
Athletes — which is what Lenz actually is — get weighed regularly. When I ran track in high school, I was expected to stay in shape, same as my friends on the volleyball team and cheer squad. It’s a fact of the game. Two pounds over the weight max is two pounds over the weight max. I’m a feminist who believes that our current culture is way too obsessed with thinness, yes. But the Ravens cheerleaders are not starving with anorexia, from what I can see. The jutting-bone clues are not apparent. Rather, they are generally curvy bouncers for whom it is a logical goal to remain rather lean and mean, with a super-healthy (not low or high) BMI.
I’m not going to start my own petition to keep Lenz on the bench, but I won’t exactly be cheering if the director decides to pull a media stunt and bring her on the bus. This would mean that another cheerleader, perhaps a woman who’d made an admirable number of appearances and practiced her routine routinely, would have to stay home. Based on what I’ve read, I don’t think Lenz earned her coveted spot — I call a foul.
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