Fairness, justice, and the essential nature of cheerleading

July 21, 2010 at 2:37 pm 2 comments

Varsity cheerleading is not a sport.  Or so says a federal judge in Connecticut, who today issued a 95-page opinion that “Quinnipiac University violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by failing to provide equal opportunities for athletics participation to female students.” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

The ruling said that a varsity cheerleading team, which the university created this past year, may not be considered a varsity sport for purposes of complying with federal gender-equity law.

Members of the women’s volleyball team, along with their coach, had sued Quinnipiac last spring after the private university said it would cut the team—along with men’s golf and men’s outdoor track—to save money. District Judge [Stefan A.] Underhill later ordered the university to reinstate the volleyball team while the case was pending.

That a judge would deliberate about which activities are considered a sport reminds me of the Supreme Court case PGA Tour v. Martin. See the below TED talk by Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel — around the 5:15 mark, he engages the audience in a provocative exercise about  justice by tracing the logic of Supreme Court Justices who wrestled with the question about whether walking is an essential, or simply an incidental, feature of golf.


Entry filed under: play, think. Tags: , , , , , , .

Literary sport On the limits of social science

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anna Floyd  |  July 23, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Hey Jason – I haven’t watched the Sandel talk yet, but I did see the news article about competitive cheering in the NYT. I don’t really understand how they come to their definition of “sport”. It obviously wasn’t based on anything related to doing an activity that invovles intense physical work requiring a great deal of dedication, and lots of time and practice. Maybe the judges should get off their butts and try vaulting before coming to a decision, huh? :)

  • 2. House Perspicacity  |  October 10, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    If Justice is the proper treatment of things according to their place, then we must ask: Is Cheerleading a sport? What constitutes a sport? And so on and so forth. Nice to see Philosophy finally getting into TED, rather than their usual crap.


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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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