Legends Of The Fail
I don’t know exactly how I feel about the Legends Football League. Formerly known as the Lingerie Football League, I am sure most of you have heard of this all-female tackle football league. Typically, the LFL is more of a punchline than anything else because there is so much wrong with the LFL on a superficial level.
At first glance, the LFL was something created by a man, Mitch Mortaza, for young men. Mortaza’s intentions were that the viewer demographic was to be “beer drinking college guys, age 21 and up.” If you are unfamiliar with the LFL, the gist of the league is that teams of women from all over the USA play full-contact, 7-on-7, arena football in teeny, tiny uniforms.
There used to be a Canadian league as well, however as recently as Sept. 19, the Canadian league had dissolved due to the players refusing to play. Reasons cited are disorganization and lack of safety precautions.
The LFL feels like objectification in its most blatant form. It is a caricature of the actual game of football featuring female athletes in a world where women in practically every other sport do not have to wear a bikini to get recognition. It would be too easy for me to come out and write about how awful the LFL is and how it is the antithesis of how female athletes want to be portrayed. I have come to the decision after much critical analysis, that the LFL has some pretty obvious flaws, but I am trying to look for positive aspects of this league, one of which is that it is a women’s football league and we don’t typically see women on the football field unless they are cheerleaders.
Alongside the uniforms, some of the most pressing problems within the LFL are that the women are neither paid nor provided health insurance by the league. Somebody is profiting off of ticket and merchandise sales, unfortunately it isn’t the women on the field who are hurling themselves into each other game after game. It is hard to think of the players as the badass female athletes that each and every one of them are because of those preposterous uniforms.
These women end up with the same football injuries that any NFL player would get — concussions and all. Same game, same injuries, yet they receive none of the respect nor recognition that an NFL player would get. So why even bother? Perhaps it’s for the love of the game, the love of competition and a chance at networking possibilities. Even NFL cheerleaders, who make minimal money, have better chances at networking opportunities and careers beyond cheerleading.
The NFL isn’t going to collapse or dissolve any time soon. The legitimacy of being associated with an NFL franchise, even as a cheerleader, is far more valuable than anything the LFL can offer its players.
On Sept. 19, the LFL boasted that it will be broadcast in 120 territories around Europe, comparing this to the NFL’s 200. An article on the LFL website bragged that the league is going to be the introducing American football to many new markets that even the NFL has been unable to reach due to a lack of interest throughout the European union. To be completely honest, the whole idea that the LFL is bigger in Europe than the NFL is sounds made up. There was no research or any hard numbers to back this projection.
The biggest separation between the LFL and the NFL is obviously the fact that men’s football is a display of athleticism, speed and strength. While the LFL’s draw is simply the display of breasts and buns. Even though they are playing football, the game is not typically why people are watching. They’re watching for the spectacle of it all. The uniform, or lack thereof, does a wonderful job of draining the integrity from the LFL. Most women are not sitting around watching football because they find it to be sexy (but we all know that one girl who roots for the Patriots because of Tom Brady in his tight pants). Sure, there are muscular men in hi-def, but the intent of the NFL has never been to excite its female viewers with the players’ uniforms. The LFL’s uniforms just aren’t sufficient for a contact sport and I hypothesize that the players are getting bumps and bruises in some awfully sensitive places.
Mortaza knows exactly what he is doing and what his mission is with the league. Even through the rebranding of the league through a name change and the removal of the garter belts from the uniform, the lingerie aspect lives on in infamy. The old slogan of “True Fantasy Football,” is now “Women of the Gridiron,” yet none of the attempts at trying to convince us that these women are somehow empowered through this experience seem to be working.
Perhaps the struggles are in the finances of the league. Do beer-drinking college-age guys want to see beautiful women tackle each other in minimal clothing? Of course, but do they have the funds to pay to see it on a regular basis? Probably not. And if they like football, they’re more likely to go to an actual NFL game. The league is giving a major lack of credit to the rest of the American male demographic who tend to not care about the LFL either way and have outgrown the initial excitement of seeing girls in bikinis. Men older than a certain age see the LFL as a novelty fit for a bachelor-party-type excursion but beyond that don’t really care about it at all. People are basically unfazed and apathetic to the league’s existence.
Even with the attempt at rebranding the LFL stills comes off as a hyper-sexualized, misogynistic event. Critics will complain that the LFL is objectifying women; but then again, is it really objectification if the women are playing the game willingly?
After all, they did choose to sign up for this. They’re not even getting paid, so it isn’t some sort of justifiable means to an end. Is it possible that these women are feminists in their own right by choosing to go down this path, unpaid and practically undressed? They are taking away the option of their viewers to “use their imaginations” and putting it all out there. Wardrobe malfunctions are not only expected, they are applauded and the girls seem to just laugh it off.
There are other women’s tackle football leagues. For example, the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL), which is an adult women’s league in which the players have to pay to play. Most of the money comes out of their own pockets or team fundraising efforts. They travel domestically and sometimes even internationally, but the games are not televised, the girls won’t get any public attention or have any real networking opportunities — they just do it for the love of the game.
Female athleticism on a football field doesn’t have to be punctuated with sexuality, but it seems that there is a lack of interest, whether the women are in bikinis or full gear.
There will always be some misguided pseudo-feminist trying to pave the way for women in the actual NFL. Sadly, they typically end up embarrassing us all.
Lauren Silberman was the first woman to officially try out the NFL this past spring and not only did she not make it into the league, her tryout was such an epic failure that it’s possible that she set feminism back a few decades. She claims that she was injured on the day that she tried out; if that was the case she should have backed out. Instead of her tryout being memorable for its historical relevance, she has only solidified the all too common idea that girls shouldn’t play football with her dismal attempt at a field goal that only made it 19 yards. If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.
In many sports these days, there is gender equality. An ebb and flow of masculine and feminine where each gender has its own clear and delineated place within the sport. While football remains one of a handful of sports where women haven’t quite found their place yet, that’s not to say that the LFL or IWFL won’t continue to evolve and make progress for women’s tackle football.
All of this aside, let’s take into account that men are still not allowed to compete in either synchronized swimming nor rhythmic gymnastics. How’s that for sexism?