There’s a bit of a local controversy brewing in Baltimore. Courtney Lenz, a veteran Ravens cheerleader, is not going to the Super Bowl this weekend in New Orleans. Why not? The reasons aren’t totally clear, although Courtney and many of her supporters say it’s due to a two pound weight gain.
23-year-old Courtney has been cheering for the Ravens for five years, since she was 18. She recently graduated college and took a full-time marketing job, something she says has made it difficult to keep up with her cheering schedule—so she announced her plans to retire at the end of this season. She says she received an email with the names of the 32 cheerleaders who would accompany the team to New Orleans and that she is the only three-year veteran not invited:
They’ve been really hard on me this year since I told them I was leaving. I was the only three-plus year veteran that [is] not going. I immediately thought it was a mistake.
Ravens spokeswoman Heather Harness told ABC News:
As set by the NFL, we are permitted to bring 32 cheerleaders to the Super Bowl. Our selection process was based upon three criteria: seniority, performance ability and personal conduct throughout the season.
Hmm. It’s pretty clear that Courtney has seniority, and fans say she has been one of the most popular and talented cheerleaders since she began cheering for the Ravens. So why the slight? Keep reading, because the plot thickens.
[Courtney] was told she didn’t put in as many appearance hours this season as she did the past four years while in college. They also stated she struggled with weight on occasion and she had been benched for [a] two-pound weight gain during a game earlier in the fall, which is absurd, unhealthy and a complete inaccurate measurement of a woman’s ‘appearance’ and size!
Whether the Ravens organization was pissed off by Courtney’s plans to retire or irked by the fact that she was working full-time during the season, the fact that a weight gain has been brought up as a factor in this situation is both crazy, fascinating, and completely disappointing. There’s no way of telling if there’s any truth to the claim, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if weight gain were a contributing factor; football is a notoriously sexist (and image conscious) sport.
Courtney herself, interviewed on Access Hollywood, said she had been benched earlier in the season for a weight gain and told by cheerleading officials that she had had a “rough year.” She also told Access Hollywood that she currently weighs 124 pounds and that the team wanted her to get back down to 120 or 121 pounds, the weight she had been when she started cheering for the Ravens five years ago. She was apparently reprimanded by team officials for her weight in both October and November of 2012.
B.Boyd over at Baltimore Fishbowl doesn’t have much sympathy for Courtney, not even if the team doesn’t want to bring her because of a weight gain. She writes:
Athletes — which is what Lenz actually is — get weighed regularly. When I ran track in high school, I was expected to stay in shape, same as my friends on the volleyball team and cheer squad. It’s a fact of the game. Two pounds over the weight max is two pounds over the weight max. I’m a feminist who believes that our current culture is way too obsessed with thinness, yes. But the Ravens cheerleaders are not starving with anorexia, from what I can see. The jutting-bone clues are not apparent. Rather, they are generally curvy bouncers for whom it is a logical goal to remain rather lean and mean, with a super-healthy (not low or high) BMI.
I see B.Boyd’s point, but I think this is a more delicate issue than just oh, she gained weight, she can’t go, it’s a “fact of the game.” I get that there’s weekly weigh-ins and that the cheerleaders probably sign an extensive contract ensuring they won’t change their physical appearance during the course of the season, but Courtney already served her time on the bench for her weight gain “violations.” Why also exclude her, a longtime cheerleader, from one of the biggest and most exciting events in Ravens history?
Apparently on January 27th, Courtney was emailed and asked to turn in her uniform, making it pretty obvious that there’s no way she’s going to be representing the Ravens on the field at this year’s Super Bowl.
Regardless of whether the team isn’t taking Courtney to the game because of her weight, it seems needlessly harsh and unfair to exclude her from the Super Bowl at the end of her career. She’s been cheering with the Ravens for five years and this is her last chance to do so, so why not bring her along? That would be the right thing to do.
I grew up in Baltimore, and I’m a Ravens fan through and through (but mainly because I like Baltimore, not because I like football). I’ll be cheering for the Ravens this Sunday regardless, but if this is how the Ravens treat the women who cheer for their team, my faith in “Ravens nation” is seriously shaken.
Photo: Help Us Get Courtney To The Super Bowl on Facebook