The Pro Cheerleading Podcast conducted an inaugural diversity survey of pro cheerleading in the NFL and NBA. This article highlights key points that pro cheerleading directors should take away from the survey results to improve the state of diversity and inclusion.
We wrapped our second season of the podcast with a very important topic of diversity in pro cheerleading called "I'm Every Woman." We conducted a first-ever diversity survey for the NFL and NBA and reviewed every cheerleading team roster to determine the percentage of cheerleaders from diverse backgrounds for each squad. We also opened a survey to our listeners who are current cheerleaders and dancers in the NBA and NFL to participate and self-identify their racial background.
I thought we covered the topic sufficiently but realized that I still have a little more to say! As an African-American woman, this topic has always been very important to me and became vital to my perspective while cheering in the NFL. The first four times that I auditioned to become a Sea Gal, there was only one African-American out of 28-30 women on the squad. Each year that I auditioned and made it to finals but was cut from making the team, so many questions surfaced for me of whether the Seahawks organization valued diversity. Over the past few years, the number of African-Americans on the Sea Gals squad, as well as that of other racial minorities, improved significantly. Matter of fact, the Seahawks ranked fourth in our survey with 46.4% of the squad having a diverse racial background. The Sea Gals even selected an African-American woman to be featured on the calendar cover, which had to make history as a first for the organization.
I love seeing signs of progress and appreciate the strides that some pro cheerleading teams are making to improve diversity and inclusion. I would like to underscore the importance of NFL and NBA cheerleading directors taking a close look at the way that they recruit cheerleaders and dancers to participate in auditions, considering whether they acknowledge, celebrate and promote their cheerleaders from diverse backgrounds equitably with the rest of the squad, and recognizing that the current state of diversity and inclusion in pro cheerleading is no longer acceptable. This touches the big strategic decisions you make as leaders down to what may appear to be the smallest routine decisions that you make in running the squad. From the diversity of the panel of judges you select for auditions, the promo appearances you proactively make in minority communities, the criteria you use in the selection of cheerleaders for special opportunities, setting formations of dances, getting to know the cultural backgrounds of the cheerleaders of your squad, and exploring ways that they can feel better supported to use their platform to inspire others who look like them - all of these decisions can impact the diversity and inclusion of your team.
This is a dialogue we wanted to start in the pro cheerleading industry and we would love to keep it going. We can always and should always strive to do better!