Opinion: Stereotypes delegitimize cheer’s status as a sport


Photo/Katherine Wilson

“Being a Granite Bay cheerleader means to always show pride and respect towards others as well as lifting them up in the process. To be the most outgoing and easiest for someone who doesn’t potentially know what’s going on at the school to talk to. To be the friendly face and strong role model you see when coming to Granite Bay High School,” Ava Casagrande, varsity cheerleader, said.

“Grizzlies!” rang through the speakers as the Granite Bay High School cheer team struck a pose, panting. As the audience roared in cheers and chants, a female voice was faintly heard from the audience.“Wait, they’re actually good?”

In the 1800s at Princeton University, Thomas Peebles put together a group of individuals to cheer on the football players, igniting a popular activity that many continue on to this day.  

That means cheer has been around for 162 years.

And yet after 162 years, we still debate if cheer, both a community and an activity I have taken part in for seven years now, is even considered a sport. Why is that?

For as long as cheer has been around, cheerleaders have been portrayed in both reality and fiction as “rich, snobby and cruel.”

The 2000s cheerleading movie “Bring it On,” a quite popular and ‘classic’ movie that earned a whopping $90.5 million in the box office, only amplified those stereotypes. The main characters are all incredibly wealthy, foul-mouthed and brutal in both language and hand gestures.

In more ways than one, stigmas have been nailed into the public’s mind.

For years, cheerleading has been female dominated: only 15.7% of cheerleaders identify as male, according to a ZIPPIA study in April 2022. 

In 2010, Quinnipiac University pulled funding from the women’s volleyball team to support a competitive cheerleading team. In Judge Stefan Underhill’s ruling on the Quinnipiac case, he wrote that cheerleading didn’t qualify as a sport because “the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.”

Due to these harmful clichés that exist even today, it almost seems like nothing can change the public perception.

In 2020, Netflix created a television series called “Cheer,” revolving around, you guessed it, cheerleading at Navarro College.

The show gained popularity pretty quickly while the world was in quarantine, but even its obvious depictions of the risks and hard work required for simple three-minute routines couldn’t gain the respect of the public.

One hundred and sixty-two years have passed, and still the hate presses on.  

Honestly, it’s exhausting.

You would think by now that society would change their outlook, considering how much we have done to gain an ounce of approval. No matter what show, movie, stunt or tumble we showcase to the world, people turn their gaze towards the football field.

In the eyes of the public, throwing a ball while running is more of a sport than catching a full grown girl in the air.

At least we catch our girls.