Cheer team protests after school failed to include them in National Women in Sports Day post: 'We believe in our sport'
Each year during the first week of February, the sports world marks National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a little-known holiday celebrating the achievements of female athletes.
But this year, St. Johns University in Queens, N.Y. came under fire after leaving out both the cheer and dance teams in an Instagram post honoring the holiday — an omission that later caused the cheer team to publicly protest.
The initial post was shared by the university on Feb. 1 and featured nine different photos of female athletes competing in various sports. Snapshots from volleyball games, soccer tournaments, and even curling events were included in the slideshow, but the cheer and dance teams were noticeably absent.
“Today we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day!” the post caption read. “We are so proud of and inspired by our female student-athletes who work so hard to be the leaders of their generation, both on and off the field of competition!”
The backlash was almost immediate.
“Where’s dance and cheer!” one Instagram user asked in the comments.
“as if our cheer and dance team don’t go all out every game…” another chimed in.
“Disappointed dance alumni here to see yet again the dance and cheer team not being recognized,” someone else commented. “Echoing all the comments that recognize these girls hard work and devotion to the university but also would like to call out all of the other things they are not given access to such as: appropriate athletic scholarship, access to having trainers at practice, sports study hall, etc @stjohnsredstorm @stjohnsu these girls deserve more.”
The criticism was hard to miss, but after the university failed to respond publicly, the cheer team made sure their thoughts were heard loud and clear.
“Not only today, but everyday, it is important that ALL women athletes are recognized for their hard work, dedication and strength,” read an Instagram post from St. Johns Cheer.
Then, just one day after the controversy began, the cheer team took to the university’s basketball court in protest during a men’s basketball game against Seton Hall. Lining up side-by-side, the women each wore red shirts with the message “We are women in sports” written across the back. They then stood silently in the middle of the basketball court for several minutes, refusing to perform their usual routine.
Some of this was captured on camera, which was later shared on social media by a St. Johns cheerleader who slammed the university for repeatedly overlooking the team.
“Even through constant neglect, this team does not remain silent,” wrote 20-year-old Allison McCann. “I could not be more proud of this group of athletes for standing up for what we believe is right.”
“The passion each individual has for this sport should not go unnoticed,” McCann continued. “When given less, we strive for more. We deserve recognition just the same as every other ATHLETE. GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE.”
A full video of the protest was also shared on Twitter, where the story quickly took off.
“props to the st. john’s cheer team for doing this,” wrote Twitter user @maggiemyan. “y’all deserve your flowers too on national girls and women in sports day.”
“Good for you,” one person tweeted back. “I agree with you.”
“May not seem fair, but almost all Universities won’t list Cheer/Pom/Dance as NCAA athletes due to Title IX regulations,” another person countered. “That’s why they are typically housed under Student Activities.”
According to the New York Post, St. Johns did eventually respond to the controversy and insisted that it was a matter of innocent human error.
“The department recognized its female student-athletes and athletic teams with a social media post, along with an all-inclusive, in-game video board message and public address announcement to honor female athletes,” university spokesman Brian Browne told the paper. “There was an inadvertent photo omission of the University’s Dance and Cheerleading teams in the social media post.”
It’s unclear whether or not the cheer team has accepted this apology, but earlier this week, they uploaded another post to Instagram once again reiterating their stance.
“We believe in our University. We believe in each other. We believe in our sport,” the post caption read. “We want the world to recognize cheerleading the way that it deserves to be recognized.”
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