The Seahawks have announced they've added men to their dance team — changing the name from the Sea Gals to the Seahawks Dancers. Eight male dancers have joined 30 women for the 2019 season. The Seahawks are one of only a few NFL teams to include men on their dance squads.
KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick that he's trying to figure out whether this is just "an evolution" — as the team is calling it — or something more.
'EVOLUTION' OF ENTERTAINMENT
Thiel said it's hard to tell if there is a bigger reason behind the Seahawks' decision to add men to the dance team.
"The Seahawks weren't very candid about this," he said, noting that a spokesman was quoted as saying this is just part of the evolution of the team's entertainment. "For me personally, I've never quite understood the need to have cheer squads at professional events. I think there's enough entertainment going on. There's always music going on. I've never quite gotten the need, but I guess it has evolved to this."
Thiel pointed out that the only change in the Seahawks organization is the ownership. Jody Allen has succeeded her late brother, Paul, as the first female owner of a male sports team in Seattle.
"But that wasn't mentioned by the Seahawks, nor was it mentioned that this is any response to the cultural politics in the country," Thiel said. "So, they're going to add these eight dancers. We don't know what their routines are going to be — if they're going to just join in the dancing or if there's going to be something more to that."
Thiel said it's a cultural hot button right now. He noted there have been problems with cheer squads in some cities — not Seattle — that include sexual harassment, appearance requirements and poor pay.
"The current Sea Gals get the state minimum wage, but they do have appearance restrictions and if they go over weight restrictions they are subject to dismissal," Thiel said. "So, all of these things make the cheerleader notion a lot more complex than it used to be, and I think there's some scrutiny on this that's probably well deserved."
Thiel stressed that if an organization is going to have dancers, they should be paid proportionate to their contribution — which is better than minimum wage.
"I think there needs to be gender equity," he said. "And it needs to be, I think, acrobatic enough to get people to quit looking at their phones and look at what's going on."