Chalk this one up to the, “but didn’t we already know that?” department: After a few weeks of legal wrangling, it can now officially be confirmed that cheerleading is not a contact sport. It’s not. In fact, even though it most assuredly isn’t, you probably wish it was: According to a Wisconsin appellate court, cheerleading doesn’t qualify as a contact sport because, “it does not involve physical contact between opponents.” Evidently the third-quarter gift exchange doesn’t count. Now a defendant’s only hope for avoiding a pricey trial and verdict might be to push the decision one-stop further, hoping that the Wisconsin Supreme Court decides cheerleading isn’t a sport at all.
The decision was brought — and made relevant — by a case filed by ninth-grade cheerleader Brittany Noffke, who sued fellow Holmen High School cheerleader Kevin Bakke for failing to properly spot her while practicing a three-person stunt, according to the MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL FACULTY BLOG. As you’ve probably already pieced together, Noffke fell while being thrust upwards during the stunt, suffered a head injury and sued Bakke for negligence.
Bakke had a strong case; he claimed to be covered by Wisconsin state statute § 895.525(4m)(a), which says that a participant “in a recreational activity that includes physical contact between persons in a sport involving amateur teams” is liable only for causing injury to another participant by acting “recklessly or with intent to cause injury.”
(This is exactly how Noffke got hurt, and this is the Holmen squad.)
That, of course, is where Bakke’s trouble starts. Since the cheerleading doesn’t involve opposing teams, as stipulated in the regulation, the case is moving forward, and the wandering/distracted eye of the high schooler may get him in a heap of trouble. Like, thousands of dollars worth to help cover Noffke’s medical bills.
The ruling could change — Bakke has already petitioned to appeal the ruling to the Wisconsin Supreme Court — and Bakke’s best chance at getting off the hook might be for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the appellate court one further and declare that cheerleading isn’t a sport at all. The appellate court took on the assumption that cheerleading was a sport when working toward making a decision. Yet it isn’t covered nominally by the National Federation of State High School Associations (they classify “spirit” as a sport, which is thought to encompass cheerleading), and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association doesn’t classify cheerleading as a sport whatsoever.
(The cheerleading crew a lawsuit tore apart.)
It’s not a foregone conclusion that the state’s Supreme Court will agree with the appellate court at all, and it either way, the decision is likely to set national precedent for how to classify and legally handle cheerleading injury cases.
When can commit to one thing, though: Regardless of decision, we’re going to keep covering cheerleaders as a big part of sports. Because they are. Besides, why would we ever stop covering the athletes who take nude pictures of themselves on cell phones, are given alcohol by their coaches and try and seduce the athletes they support with their youthful wiles?