Still sexist: Why we’re not falling for Lingerie Football’s rebrand

A name change and a few less frills might sound better to sponsors, but it does nothing for women’s sport

Jas Swilks

When the Lingerie Football League (LFL) announced that it was starting the year 
with some big changes, I wondered whether they were finally going to do
 something really radical. Perhaps like paying their players. Or could it be
that they were going to stop making the women sign ‘accidental nudity’ clauses?

But no, apparently not.

Last month LFL Founder Mitch Mortaza announced a name change: from the
‘Lingerie Football Club – True Fantasy Football’ to ‘Legends Football Club –
Women of the Gridiron’.

On the LFL website Mortaza claimed that all ‘sexy’ branding had been removed
 from their logos and the player’s lingerie had been replaced with ‘performance
 wear.’

“While the Lingerie Football League name has drawn great media attention 
allowing us to show case the sport to millions, we have now reached a crossroad
 of gaining credibility as a sport or continuing to be viewed as a gimmick. In 
the coming years we will further establish this sport in the US, Australia,
 Europe and Asia as the most known form of American football globally. In order
 to reach the next milestone, we feel the focus has to be the sport and our
 amazing athletes.”

Now before we go throwing our hands in the air to cheer for Mortaza, let’s have 
a look at exactly what these ‘modifications’ look like.

Before

After

Does Mortaza expect us to believe that a few less ruffles and fringing really change what the LFL stands for? Looking at the old and new outfits side by side, there appears very little difference. Gone are the garters and lingerie, but only to be replaced with what appears to be the same outfit – minus the bows – leaving the players still mostly unprotected and at risk of injury. The new official LFL video shows that the ogling the women is still their main tactic, as the camera operator  slowly pans up the player’s bodies, from their feet to their crotch and breasts.

Here is what we know of the LFL so far:

Mortaza exploits college-aged women for little or no pay and refuses to provide protective uniforms.

Since 2009 the LFL has drawn much controversy for its treatment of the female players. As discussed in my article ‘The Lingerie Football League – Let’s not pretend it’s about sport’,  I revealed how the LFL requires their players to sign accidental nudity clauses, doesn’t pay its players, refuses to provide injury compensation and fines the women if they put any protective gear under their lingerie.

LFL Chairman Mitch Mortaza has admitted to choosing image over athleticism.

Mortaza and his team have admitted on several occasions that image is central to his selection of players, and the majority of the women are college level athletes who would have no hope of playing on a national level without the LFL – a card which Mortaza plays expertly. I believe that Mortaza chooses these women with the express intentions of exploiting their desperation to be a recognised athlete.

“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”.(see here)

Despite Mortaza’s promise in 2011 that his players would be paid once the LFL became “financially stable”, we are still yet to hear any credible news of this happening. It would seem that even with all their success as the ‘Nation’s fastest growing sports league’ and airplay in over 85 countries, the only one that profits is Mortaza.

Some of the LFL’s biggest players have themselves revealed that they recognize the inequality within the league, but feel they have little choice if they want the chance to play on a national level. In an interview with CBC radio in 2012 Tampa Breeze Florida player Liz Gorman expressed her frustrations.

CBC:  “You don’t get paid?
Gorman: “No…it does get frustrating.”
CBC: “It sounds like you’re doing it because you love to play football and you want to play, and you accept the other sacrifices that come with it.”
Gorman: “Yeah…(silent for some time)…Sex sells. It’s a business. We don’t get the same media as men… so it’s obviously not the players that are choosing this.”

Evidence of harassment towards women, physical violence, nudity, verbal abuse and the use of blow up dolls were all witnessed during LFL events.

Attending the Sydney event last year, Collective Shout’s Deborah Malcolm witnessed a contest named ‘chase and tackle the girl’ where men were invited onto the field to chase and grope the players; the humiliation of a female player who lost her bikini bottoms during a touchdown and then had the image replayed on a large screen for the viewing pleasure of the male audience; and the use of a blow up doll which was passed around the bleachers while men simulated oral sex on it.

Mortaza’s disrespectful treatment of the women was exposed firsthand when 23 year old student and athlete Tal Stone tried out for the games. Stone described how she and the other women were screamed at and abused by Mortaza, told to ‘pancake the shit’ out of each other, to ‘stop wasting his fucking time’ and repeatedly called ‘pussies’; all while the LFL players ran alongside the girls making ‘vagina’ signs over their heads. As Stone explained, this wasn’t a game built to showcase talent or athleticism. It was a gimmick that encouraged violence and humiliation towards the players, whilst making money from them.

The LFL preys on underage girls

In 2011 Mortaza tried to recruit the then-13-year-old Paris Jackson as its official spokesperson for teenage athletes, in an attempt to draw younger girls into the LFL.

I fail to understand how a few less bows and ruffles on the players uniforms and the addition of thicker shoulder pads changes any of the behaviour we have seen so far from the LFL. So forgive me if I do not throw my hands in the air and applaud them for their supposed renewed focus on sports women’s performance.

In light of their poor sales at the 2012 Australian games and the storm of controversy surrounding the league, it is not surprising that Mortaza is scraping to find a way to rehash the LFL in Australia. However, the Legends Football League is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to make advertisers feel less uncomfortable. Nothing really has changed.

There is a positive alternative – Gridiron team the Western Foxes

These athletes are the real deal. They don’t discriminate and they don’t compromise on safety. Anyone who wants to support Women’s Gridiron in Australia should check out the Western Foxes in Victoria, the Female Gridiron League in Qld and Women’s Gridiron ACT.

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14 Comments

  1. Marie Palmer
    Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    This just makes me physically sick, it is still young women running around, scantily clad to be ogled by men. Men who watch gratify their urges – sick.

    • Steve Buscemi
      Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      Marie,

      Are the women forced into it? No. Do they chose to play? Yes.
      So what do you care? You don’t have to attend games, watch them on TV or do anything in regards to it. I think it’s rather rude to assume that these women don’t have the right to show of their hard worked bodies. If they didn’t like the attention, they wouldn’t do it.

      Comments from people like your make me sick, because you’re not letting people have the freedom of choice to do what they want without being judged and leaving the presence that a major crime to humanity has been committed. Here’s a pro tip, start your own league. Or go play with the full gear, full contact girls who I’m sure would be happy to give you a hit. Concern yourself with your own life and best of luck to you.

    • Kayla
      Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Don’t worry about “Steve Buscemi” Marie, men get really upset when they sense their right to women’s bodies are being challenged.

    • Chris
      Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      I presume Steve Buscemi is as much a thinking human as he is the actual Steve Buscemi.

      People dislike this kind of crap because
      1) It perpetuates ideas of female and worth and value that are destructive to the broader sense of the value of women at a societal level. Whether these women are “choosing” their situation is only a part of the issue. The rest of the world’s women aren’t choosing the effect on how they will be viewed as a result of this.
      2) These women really aren’t choosing as Steve might like to assume. As the article states, there really isn’t much alternative if the women want to compete at a sponsored level. It would be a choice if there was a fully clothed and armored alternative. There’s not.
      3) Men like Steve like to pretend that there is something more to this than exploitation and expect the rest of us to believe them, which is frankly kind of insulting. Get your hand off it (because we all know that’s where it is).

      The amount of false equivalency, straw man argument and other poor logic that goes into defending this rubbish is absurd. Stand your ground Marie. Good men and women will stand too. :)

  2. Julia
    Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Awesome article. I recommend any women who want to play gridiron in Australia get in touch with their state Gridiron association and ask which clubs are fielding women’s teams. The Northern Raiders are also starting a women’s team this year in Victoria, and more clubs Australia-wide will field teams if there is enough interest.

    • Joeleen
      Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely Agree!

    • Dread
      Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Already is a Ladies Full Kit gridiron competition here in Brisbane. 3 teams played the very first full season last year with the Logan City Jets taking out the inaugural SummerBowl by defeating the Kenmore Panthers. This year the league is expanding to 5 teams. This are REAL ladies who play a REAL sport with REAL gear and affiliated with Gridiron Queensland and Gridiron Australia and are fully covered by insurance. These are not some powderpuff princesses mincing about.

      In a few weeks the very first Interstate match will be held with Qld and the ACT ladies teams taking on the Victoria team.

      Come on down and watch some REAL football.

  3. Ross Conti
    Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank goodness there are leagues like FGLQ and WG ACT and the Western Foxes in Victoria so blokes like myself can watch real women playing real football thanks girls. And to Steve Buscemi you sir are a Neanderthal. Real men respect women Mitchell Whatever is a word i don’t use … my wife will try out for the FGLQ this year and has played sport before but never gridiron. I know she will have fun as all the women that played last year had a ball. I STRONGLY SUGGEST IF YOUR A MAN OR WOMEN TO TRY THIS SPORT !!! as it was meant to be played … the only thing missing from the LFL is a stripper pole

  4. Luke
    Posted 18 Feb ’13 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    As someone who is a fan of american football and involved in it in Queensland, the full contact, full kit leagues (such as the Female Gridiron League in Queensland) is the way to go if you are a woman looking to get involved in a great sport: real football played for real…and trust me, you will have nothing but fun and love every second of it

  5. Chappy
    Posted 19 Feb ’13 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Anyone involved with this should be ashamed with their actions. Exploiting young females.
    Shame shame shame

  6. Mark
    Posted 19 Mar ’13 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    As a male, I totally agree with Jas’s article. The alleged ‘changes’ to the LFL amount to nothing, it is still a sport designed purely to objectify and degrade women. I think its time men stood up to this and made their feelings known strongly and publicly. I congratulate the couple of men who have posted here and I stand by them and the women on this site and in this group. You are doing great work, you will be attacked and vilified for the stance you have taken, but, as someone who campaigned against the LFL, look at the changes we’ve already brought about, if we can keep up the pressure, this sad and sorry excuse for a sport will die away. As will the Neanderthal attitudes that go with it.

    • Dennis
      Posted 3 May ’13 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Mark – fully agree with you and the above comments as well.

  7. ed
    Posted 27 Dec ’13 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    It is pretty sickening, this whole LFL thing, just when women’s sport in this country is finally beginning to look up a little.

    I have two daughters, how am I supposed to explain to them what this LFL is and why they shouldn’t build their hopes and dreams on being part of it? The media is already getting behind it, with 7Mate getting ready to broadcast it, and appearances around the cities where teams are coming from. It’s very worrying, and we parents have enough to worry about in raising our kids.

    This is completely unnecessary and unjustified.

    Much respect to the “full kit” gridiron teams and leagues, thank you for raising awareness – I’ll look into bringing my kids along sometime.

  8. Posted 14 Feb ’14 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

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2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] activism news, I wrote a follow-up article on The Lingerie Football League, which was featured on Collective Shout’s website. The Western Foxes Women’s Gridiron Team were [...]

  2. [...] have gotten a late start in some sports (hockey, basketball) and an exploitative one in others (lingerie football, [...]

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