World of Sport

This brawl, this league is not just degrading to women – it’s degrading to sport

World of Sport

View gallery

.

Mass brawl in the Legends Football League

What makes the 'Legends Football League' all the more ridiculous is that, last year, it changed its name from the 'Lingerie Football League' because chairman Mitchell S Mortaza felt its uniforms and image were hurting its credibility.

For those not aware of this phenomenon, it involves seven-a-side teams of scantily-clad women playing full-contact American Football. Starting as throwaway half-time entertainment for Super Bowl viewers, it gained in popularity to become established as a fully-fledged 'sport' of its own.

Whatever your personal views of the objectification of women for entertainment purposes (I'll return to that later), the LFL is degrading – not to the women involved (who are just happy for the attention), but to the sport. See the pictures in this article and you’ll see what I mean.

A mass brawl broke out in an Eastern Conference play-off match when a Jacksonville player flung an insult at an Atlanta star during the post-match handshake. Such conduct probably doesn't belong in sport.

But before long it got much worse as both sets of players, along with coaches and even officials, got involved in the melee with one Jacksonville player even appearing to strike an Atlanta opponent with her helmet. Predictably, images of the incident went viral, but it was a disgrace.

View gallery

.
The brawl in the Legends Football League match

The brawl in the Legends Football League match

At a time when the NFL is on a broad charm offensive in order to boost its global popularity, the wider display of such garbage (and in terms of sporting level, it's of as much value as an episode of Gladiators) surely only harms the sport.

Does this variation on America's Game serve in any way to boost its popularity? You have to feel not – its target demographic is, by the LFL's own admission, "beer drinking college students aged 21 and up", although I would lower the age range significantly (US drinking laws forbid associating teenagers with boozy frat-boy antics, but that is patently the intent).

All very well – but that demographic is already gridiron loyalist territory. There is no clear commercial value beyond half-time entertainment, milking an already over-flowing teat, if you’ll forgive the analogy.

Surely the promotion of women playing Football could be used to draw in more female viewers? I fail to see how the LFL fills that brief.

View gallery

.
The brawl in the Legends Football League match

The brawl in the Legends Football League match

Women's soccer (apologies for the term, but we have to distinguish between the two) and cricket have been taken significant strides in recent years, precisely because calls from dinosaurs such as Sepp Blatter for players to wear skimpier outfits were ignored.

Surely forcing LFL players to perform in scanty 'performance wear' merely undermines these efforts? Surely fining them for over-dressing (as has been reported) simply reinforces the stereotype that women can't play sports?

And here is the crux of the LFL's problem. The objectification of women in American Football is, as followers of US affairs will be aware, a hugely sore point.

View gallery

.

The shocking case in Steubenville, Ohio, saw two High School Football stars jailed for getting a teenage girl blind-drunk before subjecting her to a gruesome, night-long rape and sexual assault, which they gleefully documented and shared on mobile phones.

The case exposed a culture in Football where teenaged prospects, even before the trappings and wealth of NFL stardom, act with impunity, brushing off serious sexual misconduct as mere horseplay. Their coach thought it was all fun and games, apparently happy to let such 'japes' slide so long as they did the business on the pitch.

It is a culture not just restricted to Football – the similarly-named game we Europeans play has its fair share of such incident – but to all-male team sports where personal and social education are de-prioritised to the extent that illiteracy and a lack of comprehension of personal responsibility are far from the exception, if not the rule.

For the game's organisers to deem such a spectacle appropriate is irresponsible – the buck, frankly, should stop at cheerleaders. The level of athleticism in US female sports is high enough that a genuine Football product can be packaged and sold as a sporting event.

And really, if semi-clad women engaged in full contact are your thing, there are plenty of age-restricted websites "beer drinking college students" can peruse.

Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Maher_LDN

View Comments (2007)