Exactly one year ago Friday, the New York Times published an explosive investigative report detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment by powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
It was a landmark story that set off a firestorm in this country. Thousands of women, empowered by a movement that came to be known as #MeToo, broke their silence to tell their own horrifying stories of being assaulted and harassed.
The New York Times and subsequent New Yorker stories were just the beginning. Sadly, we became acutely aware of just how badly women have been treated by men on a daily basis. While not all women have been subjected to the obscene behavior that Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis CK and others have been accused of, most women have suffered some kind of harassment, whether it's in the form of inappropriate comments, uncomfortable touches, uninvited advances or constant ogling.
This country and its treatment of women are starting to change for the better. Yet there's still such a long way to go.
And sports can be a part of that change.
Get rid of cheerleaders.
I'm mainly talking about the NFL, although NBA dance teams and the "ring girls" in boxing fit in the same category.
There are 32 NFL teams and 26 of them have cheerleaders, including the Tampa Bay Bucs.
And, let's be honest, they are not there to cheer on the teams. NFL games have 50,000 fans who don't need encouragement in that area.
Cheering? Be serious. In a massive, loud stadium, you can't even hear cheerleaders.
But you sure can see them.
While men are on the field being paid millions of dollars to play a game, these women are required to wear skimpy outfits, stand on the sidelines and be stared at — all while being paid peanuts.
At best, this idea is creepy. At worst, it feeds a long-held attitude that women are meant to be treated as sex objects.
We are telling men and the little boys that women are there specifically to be objectified. We are telling women and little girls that there's nothing wrong with being objectified.
This whole idea is actually disgusting when you think about it.
Ever watch that reality show, Making the Team, on CMT about the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders? The times I've seen it, some cheerleading candidate is being criticized for being, in the ridiculous estimation of those who run the squad, a couple of pounds overweight or not looking tone enough.
It's not about their spirit. It's about their looks. It's not about their personalities. It's about their body-fat percentage.
What kind of message is this sending, particularly little girls?
Some NFL teams are starting to add men to the cheerleading squads, but that is nothing more than a pitifully transparent attempt to deflect criticism of having sexy cheerleaders while still being about having sexy cheerleaders.
Some will argue that cheerleaders do charity work, but, come on, that's not why they exist. I'm sure NFL teams make enough money that they could easily offset whatever money is being raised by cheerleaders for some local cause.
So what about high school and college cheerleading squads?
That's different. That really is about school spirit. And athleticism. The squads are almost always co-ed. The routines are not meant to overtly sexual.
But go to an NFL game. Go to an NBA game. Watch the routines of the cheerleaders and the dance teams. Tell me they're not meant to be provocative. Tell me it's not meant to be titillating.