What began as a form of half time entertainment during Gridiron matches at the super bowl has now evolved into the successful and controversial Lingerie Football League, ‘true fantasy football’ according to the website. And lucky for us founder Mitch Mortaza is now expanding his empire to Australia.
I’m sure we’ve all seen and read the hype, but what lies underneath the belly of this beast and what repercussions will there be for the rest of us? Repercussions, you might say? ‘It’s football’. But the fabrics of this game stretch much farther than all the bare skin shown by these women in all their games put together.
The promotions for the LFL in Australia are clearly being aimed at men, with players whipped out of playboy photo shoots and hooters bars to play football in lingerie and garter belts. Meanwhile last year the LFL women got naked for the press after several of them had already posed for a playboy photo shoot http://www.lionsdenu.com/nadia-larysa-the-lingerie-football-league-girl…. Yet do Australian men want to be voyeurs of this fantasy ‘sport’? Do the men of Australia want to support a sport that exploits women and promotes violence against them? Is viewing this sport just masculinity being expressed?
Mitch Mortaza proudly states that the LFL is “brutality, sport and entertainment combined into one...it’s a real sport, one not played by models.” The league proudly brags about the “broken arms and noses” its players have suffered as “a sign of its toughness and competitiveness.” Hmmm women in underwear with little protection involved in full contact ‘brutality, sport and entertainment.’
We are talking Gridiron here, where the men wear full body protection. Now these women do play a modified version of gridiron, however, their uniforms are also modified to consist of, as Martin Winquist from The Sheaf (2012) writes: “modified football shoulder pads, optional elbow pads, knee pads and hockey helmets with half-visors,” to ensure enough flesh as possible is shown. And just read that top line again, ‘brutality’... in their underwear.
But I’m sure the contracts offer the players more protection than this, right? Lingerie League Gets Litigious | The Smoking Gun Reported “The Lingerie Football League...is threatening legal action against a group of former players who have complained that the league has reneged on promises to pay the medical bills for women injured during practices and games...According to several former players, league founder Mitchell Mortaza and his deputies have repeatedly threatened legal action when players have complained (or simply inquired) about health coverage and wages.”
And if the women do receive injuries on the field they better suck it up and go to practice anyway or, according to www.thesmokinggun.com (TSG) receive a $5000 fine. Not to mention the $500 fine the players will receive if they wear any "additional garments" under their ‘uniforms’. No I’m not joking, an ex-player told TSG that the League “did not want women wearing bras or underwear, since that would inhibit instances where players were exposed when uniforms were ripped off or pulled down during play.” And that brings me to the "accidental nudity" clause which states “…Performances hereunder may involve accidental nudity. Player knowingly and voluntarily agrees to provide player’s services hereunder and has no objection to providing services involving player’s accidental nudity.”
Clearly these LFL contracts were drawn up with the player’s best interests in mind. Would these clauses be acceptable for men playing gridiron?
Tampa Breeze Florida player Liz Gorman let us in on the pain of those tiny uniforms and what she really thinks of them when she was asked “how she could support women’s sport positively whilst having to wear uniforms that were clearly exploitive” in an interview with CBC Radio earlier this year. Gorman replied, “Oh. Well… well, honestly…I don’t like it, I’d rather wear full clothing. Because when you fall, it literally rips your skin. I’d love more clothing, but at the same time like any sport, the players don’t get to choose the uniform.”
But why are the players complaining about wages? In the same interview with CBC the DJ asks “You don’t get paid? Gorman replies, “No…it does get frustrating.” Wow Mitch and his league really don’t have any interest in these women at all, otherwise, with the apparent huge success LFL has, he would not only care about their physical health, but he would at least pay them.
So why predominantly market women playing football to a male audience and why in lingerie? Founder Mitch Mortaza admits “the only reason this league is getting so much attention (over other female sports) is because of the outfits “(or lack thereof). Mortaza has also admitted in interviews that the selection of female players is based on their physical appearance.”Looks are definitely a part of it. We don’t pull any punches there. We have to be able to market this sport.”
I remember going to games as a kid with my dad. He would get a beer and buy me a hotdog and we’d sit on the grass and (in those years) watch Penrith win (yes it’s been a long time). I remember those times with my dad fondly and I’m sure lots of dads today still have these footy outings with their kids. But would you take your kids to see LFL played in a stadium? Because the Brisbane entertainment centre and Allphones Arena are selling family tickets for two adults and two children ages 2 – 12 years.
And what do the male fans in America think of these women and the game? “I feel bad for the girls playing this taking it seriously. No1 but the players are even the slightest bit interested in athletic ability…” “Nude football would be better- make it happen bastards.” And Rebel Reeds at www.rebelsportsblog.com sums it up on his blog with “THE CLOSEST WE WILL GET TO LIVE STADIUM PORNO… I just would never go to a game to watch their athletic talent.”
Collective shout has commented that; “No Australian sportsman would ever accept these conditions. No Australian sportswoman should have to either.” And Jasmine Swilks writes “By asking us to strip down to our underwear to play sport, we can only assume that the Leagues do not consider women talented enough to play a sport fully clothed, and are therefore spreading a hateful message that women need to accept that their bodies (or more importantly, men’s views of their bodies) are the only way of affirming their worth on a sports field…. There is a wealth of research which links the sexualisation of women to poor body image and eating disorders, and the creation of LFL is no different. It teaches young women, men, and athletes that women have no place in sports as a ‘serious athlete’, only as a sexual object.”
Do the men of Australia want to reinforce this sexualisation of women in our culture or take us seriously as sports women and fellow citizens? For according to the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) “Sportswomen now demand to be taken seriously as athletes and have fought hard for media coverage that doesn’t concentrate on superficial issues such as physical looks and attire. If, on the other hand, some sportswomen promote themselves in erotic or revealing outfits or even nude, it sends conflicting and confusing messages to the media, the community and to other athletes. It also undermines the efforts to achieve equal credibility for all women athletes.”
However, conflicting media messages, undermining the credibility of other athletes, negative representations of body image for girls and young women in sport and the media, etc don’t seem to be on the LFL’s minds, as an enthused male reporter for National nine news informed us recently, “sure the girls know sex sells, and that’s fine by them.”
But porn stars, sexualised and sexist uniforms and promotions, poor contracts, little protection and players not being paid aside, if you are a real female footy player, why would you choose to play in the LFL? “The women who play for the league are former college-level athletes that have few other alternatives if they want to continue to compete at a high level in women’s sport… These are competitive college-level athletes looking to tap back into a national stage” was acknowledged by Mortaza in The Times.
This is not the case in Australia. If men and women really are interested in women’s sport we already have a large female footy playing culture, and it’s rugby not gridiron, which is evident at SportingPulse and http://www.ourfootyteam.com/women-in-league.php with teams vying for the Women's Rugby League World Cup | Facebook. We do have the opportunities to play on national and international stages unlike the American women.
The ASC and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, in reply to concerns over LFL in Australia, have both replied that they do not recognise and therefore do not support LFL. With the ASC directing concerns to the Government and the Government directing concerns to the LFL in the USA, this leaves us with the people of Australia if we are to take action.
I know there are a lot of Australian men who want to live in a just society that respects and affords decency to women and the women you love. And this is where strength lies, not with oppression and degradation. I know there are a lot of Australian men speaking up against the controversy that is Lingerie Football League and you can have your say too.
There is a petition to Stop the Lingerie Football League in Australia through www.collectiveshout.org. In its first week we have over 1200 signatures, the first promoter has pulled out and now we need your support, as men against sexism in Australia.
Add your voice as the men of Australia and say no to Lingerie Football League by signing the petition. Let’s make Australia a supportive environment for both men and women to live in.
For more information go to www.collectiveshout.org www.melindatankardreist.com