Cheer Column

You know, I’ve written a few columns I regret.

But I’ve never changed a published column on our web site because of public backlash.

It’s just not cool. It’s better to take the abuse and either defend your stance and damn the naysayers— or admit you were dead wrong, apologize for your lapse in judgment and move on.

Louisville-based columnist Rick Bozich stepped in it on Monday. And I mean he stepped in it big time.

After the University of Kentucky announced it had dismissed it’s cheerleading coaching staff, Bozich, who writes for WDRB.com, went on a sexist rant detailing why we should “reevaluate” the roles of cheer and dance teams at our colleges and universities.

The gist of his column: Cheerleaders are pieces of eye candy with no real function at an athletic event. And they’re not athletes either, he opined, because the Olympic Games do not include cheer as one of its sports.

His utter disrespect for the gifted young athletes who work so hard to be a part of these teams was so egregious that the public outcry was immediate.

And in very short order, Bozich changed his tune — literally. He revised his original column, softening it without any explanation.

Then on Tuesday, he went even further by penning an apology column. In it, he backed off his original stance completely. He talked about how cheerleaders and dance team members are relentless athletes who work to perfect their skills.

Yes! He nailed it!

But he didn’t nail it at all 24 hours earlier.

I’m glad the angry reaction gave Bozich a crash course in the realities of cheerleading as an athletic endeavor. It’s sad that in 2020, readers had to explain to a writer who has been published in Sports Illustrated the differences between cheerleading and pole dancing. Insert face palm emoji here.

The wonderful thing about the Internet age is that people often screen shot these things. So the first take of Bozich’s column is still floating around out there, even though WDRB tried to get it off its site as quickly as possible.

In case you missed it, here are a few nuggets from Rick’s original column:

• “Cheerleaders and dance teams are sideshows, not the main event. They’re along for the ride, not supplying the horsepower. They’re a prop, not essential.”

• “(Cheerleaders) believe fans show up to watch them, not quarterbacks, point guards, halfbacks or power forwards.”

• “They’re overexposed — and underdressed.”

• “They exist to entertain — and titillate.”

• “They sell sports — and sex appeal.”

As a former cheerleading parent and grandparent, I was livid when I read this nonsense.

No, cheerleaders are not non-essential props that exist to “titillate” male fans.

The young ladies (and men) who take part in cheerleading are hard-working athletes — just like the athletes who play basketball, football, baseball, softball, soccer, ice hockey and golf.

As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to say my daughter and her teammates, who cheered for Somerset High School back in the day, worked every bit as hard as any student-athlete at their school. In her four years as a cheerleader, Rachel suffered a broken foot and underwent knee surgery — and she didn’t injure herself applying makeup. She did it busting her butt in a very competitive sport.

Certainly, Monday’s story was huge.

The University of Kentucky cheerleading program was undoubtedly the best in the nation. I read where someone compared it to the Alabama football program. Nope. Think bigger. Think the UCLA basketball program under John Wooden and you’ll have a fair analogy.

Head coach Jomo Thompson had guided the Wildcat cheerleaders as their head coach since 2002. In his 22 years on the staff, UK won a mind-boggling 18 NCAA championships. In the last 35 years, UK has captured 24 titles.

So when UK fired Thompson and his staff, it was a very big deal.

I’ve read reports about the investigation. Public nudity, alcohol and hazing are not in any way positive. It’s not a good look for the program or for the university.

But I have to wonder if similar situations popped up within the UK men’s basketball or football programs, would the outcome have been the same?

You think Coach Cal would get the axe because of a little misbehavior from his players? You think Coach Stoops would be given his walking papers if drunken parties on Lake Cumberland were exposed?

It would be interesting to know what exactly led to this dynasty imploding. I do wonder if the price Thompson and his staff paid was fair — or if UK president Eli Capilouto simply made an example of them.

I, for one, will be following this story as more details emerge and as athletes who worked so hard to make UK the best cheer program in the nation come forward with their views.

Getting the full picture will take a little longer than it took Bozich to change his tune.

But one thing is certain now — Bozich’s original take on cheerleading was more distasteful than a nude basket toss.

 

JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Contact him at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.

 

 

 

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