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July 28 2010

No Cheers for Title IX Decision

Allison Kasic

ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook has some harsh words for Title IX and the recent Quinnipiac case in this essay. The piece brings up a lot of questions, including whether Title IX has gone off track from its original intentions and if gender quotas are still relevant today when women dominate nearly every aspect of the education system. Inkwell readers will know that these are concerns that we've brought up at IWF in the past.

Of all the interesting things Easterbrook brings up in his article, what caught my eye was his point that Title IX has become a legal behemoth with hordes of Title IX consultants, "expert" witnesses, and interest groups ready to get involved in a legal battle at a second's notice. Check out Easterbrook's description of the expert witnesses involved in the Quinnipiac case:

Go further into the judge's decision and find that both plaintiffs and defendants fielded dueling "expert" witnesses testifying on who counts as a "participant" in women's track and field. The plaintiff's expert witness makes part of her living testifying in Title IX lawsuits. It's a sign of legalism run amok when lawyers and consultants get fees for arguing over whether college students should receive school-sponsored volleyball outfits. The decision includes a good 20 pages of hair-splitting arguments regarding exactly how many members the school's various teams have -- and in the case of field hockey, whether Title IX would be satisfied if there were 24, 22.2 or 22.7 women on the Quinnipiac team. If Quinnipiac, or any college, had hundreds of men in organized sports but hardly any women, that would be discrimination. This legal case, however, concerns such ultratrivia as whether Quinnipiac's "roster management system" should have listed 31 boys on the men's baseball team when the NCAA average is 33.3! Get this junk-science lawsuit out of the courts!

As for the question of whether competitive cheerleading is a sport, Easterbrook offers some interesting food for thought:

Most of us never will attend a competitive cheer meet, but then most of us never will attend a dive meet, either. Competitive cheer is an awful lot like gymnastics, which is universally considered a sport. Cheer events are judged rather than decided by pitting teams against one another directly, as happens in most sports. But gymnastics, figure skating and other judged events in which participants don't "play" against one another nevertheless are seen as sports.

Many high schools now consider competitive cheer a sport -- Cactus Shadows High is the reigning state champion in Arizona, for instance. To avoid the semantic squabble regarding whether cheer is a sport, the University of Oregon calls its competitive cheerleading entrant a "stunts and gymnastics" team. It recruits and signs its participants just as the Ducks' football team does. (How long until there is a competitive-cheer recruiting scandal?) Aren't schools that sponsor sporting events better judges of what constitutes a sport than lawyers in a windowless courtroom?

Those who think cheer isn't a sport may be thinking in terms of 1950s cheerleaders clapping hands and kicking legs. Think again. Check the renowned University of Kentucky cheerleaders' moves.

Today, some states won't allow high school cheerleaders to perform the "flip basket toss" or the pyramid double-flip dismount, because they are as dangerous as playing varsity football. In a 2009 case, a Wisconsin court ruled that cheer is "a recreational activity that includes physical contact between persons in a sport involving amateur teams." The legal significance here was that cheer can be as dangerous as a contact sport, which certainly makes cheer sound like athletics. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research calls cheer a sport, and its most recent report says more severe injuries to girls and women result from cheer accidents than from girls' and women's soccer or basketball.

If high school girls and college women want to train for competitive-cheer events that involve scoring points with complex tosses and stunts, and people want to attend, where does a federal judge get off saying it is not athletics -- yet a volleyball bouncing back and forth across a net is? Let schools, states and spectators be the ones to argue out distinctions regarding what is and isn't sport. Courts have no business sticking their noses into such issues.

Read the whole article here.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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