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Is Competitive Cheerleading a Sport?

Guest author: Christian Dennie, Esq.

A court has ruled it is not. At least not for Title IX purposes. Yet.

The District Court found that competitive cheerleading is not a sport and the 30 roster positions could not be counted under Title IX because the activity did not “yet” afford participation opportunity of a varsity “sport.”  Further, the District Court observed the NCAA does not recognize competitive cheerleading as a “sport” or an “emerging sport.”  The District Court carefully analyzed the record and indicated competitive cheerleading is similar to a sport in some respects and different in others.  The District Court concluded that the following are similar to other sports: 1) team’s operating budget, benefits, services, and coaching staff were structured and administered by the Quinnipiac athletic department; 2) the length of the season and minimum number of competitions; 3) governed by an athletic organization (i.e., National Competitive Stunt and Tumbling Association); and 4) the purpose of the team was to compete athletically against other intercollegiate varsity level teams.

On the other hand, the District Court found the following differences: 1) Quinnipiac did not provide locker space for competitive cheerleading team members; 2) the team members did not receive NCAA catastrophic injury insurance because it is not an NCAA recognized sport; 3) Quinnipiac did not and could not conduct off-campus recruitment for its competitive cheerleading team; 4) there were no uniform set of rules applied to competitive cheerleading competitions; 5) Quinnipiac competed against a “motley assortment of competitors” including varsity intercollegiate cheerleading teams, collegiate club teams, high school age competitors, and all-star opponents; and 6) there was no progressive playoff system leading to a championship game.

In reviewing the totality of the circumstances, the District Court concluded that Quinnipiac’s competitive cheerleading team did not compete in circumstances indicative of varsity sports.  Thus, the District Court ruled and the Second Circuit affirmed that the 30 roster positions for competitive cheerleading members could not be counted for Title IX purposes because the activity did not “yet” afford women genuine participation opportunities in a varsity sport.

You can read the full details of the case here.

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