Cheerleaders and non-cheerleaders have frequently shared their opinions on the requirements of NFL cheerleaders, from maintaining their highlighted hair to working for less than minimum wage
. Now, the NFL is pushing the limits again with a controversial new service (and new job description for the cheerleaders): fans can "order" cheerleaders at games to visit their seats.
We were shocked to read that this is how the NFL hopes to inspire more people to attend games. This decision is based on their recent polling, one of which revealed that less than 20% of actual self-described NFL fans attend the games. The other 80% go for the entertainment value and the NFL is hoping to cash in on those who go simply to be entertained. In hopes of boosting attendance (as rates have greatly decreased over the past few years), the some NFL teams are testing this new "ordering service." Currently, three teams -- the Falcons, Buccaneers, and Seahawks -- are testing an app that will let fans request cheerleaders to visit their seats during games. By the start of the new season, it is believed up to half of the league will be utilizing this service.
Professionals believe the app is good for business. Reported by The Mass Media, Dr. Jurui Zhang, an Assistant Professor of Marketing, explained, "this is a good example of an online to offline (O2O) business model. Given the rise of mobile technology and social media, every business "” including sports business in this context "” is wondering how to connect to consumers in a faster and effective way."
Sure it makes good "business" sense. But is it ethical? Others on the other side of the fence question the app, seeing it as just another way the league objectifies women and, specifically, its cheerleaders. Is "ordering" cheerleaders...right? Is it fair to require cheerleaders to visit possibly drunk fans in the stadiums, when their real job is to perform on the sidelines? And, not to delve too deep in the darkness, what about the safety of the cheerleaders? It doesn't seem very safe to require a young woman to visit a complete stranger (who is most likely a man) in the stands. While yes, nothing "major" can happen, as she isn't alone with the individual, but she is still at risk for bad behavior from those "ordering" her. There is also the question of what she is required to do when she visits the individual. Is she supposed to entertain him or her? Take a photo? Perform a dance? What's to prevent a man from inappropriately grabbing or touching her?
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I want to hear from you. Am I just being sensitive in thinking this new "service" is appalling? Am I off base in thinking this further objectifies NFL cheerleaders? Do you think this is just a new way for fans to interact with the cheerleaders? Share your thoughts below with a comment.