Though there are over 7,000 Facebook users who hit the “like” button to help get 23-year-old Baltimore Ravens cheerleader Courtney Lenz to the Super Bowl, not everyone agrees she deserves to participate.
Mark Zinno, a host for 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore, was a male cheerleader for the Ravens in 1999, 2001-2004 and from 2006-2007. He sent a letter to members of the media explaining why he didn’t agree with Lenz, who told “Good Morning America” she thought she was left off this Sunday’s squad because a weigh-in revealed she gained 1.6 pounds.
“Being a professional cheerleader has certain requirements that most jobs don’t have,” he wrote. “Maintaining a certain appearance and weight is part of that. For the record, there are other jobs, more ‘professional’ in nature, that have weight requirements, i.e. military and firefighters. As a current member of the Maryland Army National Guard and a veteran of two deployments overseas, I am weighed-in at least semi-annually, and if I don’t meet those requirements, I am reprimanded.”
In a statement sent to ABCNews.com, the Ravens explained they were only allowed to bring 32 cheerleaders out of the 60 members of the squad. “Our selection process was based upon three criteria: seniority, performance ability and personal conduct throughout the season,” spokeswoman Heather Harness said.
Zinno told ESPN Playbook there were other cheerleaders who had been benched for weight issues during the season who were part of the team and who will root on the Ravens in New Orleans. He also mentioned male cheerleaders are held to similar standards, being asking to maintain “a healthy appearance” during the season.
He also accused Lenz of violating another Ravens policy.
“As the Ravens’ statement said, it’s about personal conduct and being a good steward of the organization,” he said. “She hasn’t been a good steward. When they tell you that you shouldn’t be out drinking with players on the team because it’s against fraternization policy well, she [violated that policy]. That part she neglected to mention.”
Fellow Ravens cheerleading alumnus Imani Myles (1998-‘01) agreed, telling ESPN Playbook that she has seen women kicked off the team because a member of the front office caught them at a mall with a player. As for weight criteria? She said that isn’t anything new when it comes to NFL cheerleading, as are other requirements for personal appearance.
“They don’t want [your weight] to fluctuate during the season,” Myles said. “You can’t change your hair color, your hair style. You can’t do a lot of things that they want you to keep while you are on contract.”
Not all of the Ravens cheerleaders completely agree with the Lenz ban. Zinno says he’s heard a couple alumni who don’t support the way the team was run and say “they’re not surprised” about Lenz’s complaints.
But Zinno and Myles have also heard about current members of Baltimore’s team who weren’t chosen for the Super Bowl, yet still helped the squad out despite the snub.
“I talked to a three-year vet who didn’t have the chance to go,” Zinno said. “The first night they had Super Bowl practice, she showed up at that practice to cheer her teammates on and take down notes for them and help them out. That’s the kind of teammates we want in this program, not the ones that are complaining they didn’t get an opportunity.”