Monday, December 29, 2008

Is Cheerleading a Sport?

I don't know. At least not officially.

The Wisconsin Appellate Court recently refused to decide whether cheerleading is in fact a sport. That court assumed that cheerleading is a sport, for purposes of a recent opinion, but failed to actually hold that cheerleading was a sport.

The Court did, however, hold that cheerleading is not a "contact sport," as that was the true issue before the court.

The case involved a ninth-grade cheerleader's suit against another cheerleader for negligence in failing to properly spot her during a stunt and causing her to fall from a pyramid and suffer a severe head injury.

The defense claimed immunity from negligence liability under a Wisconsin statute that provides 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.”

In Noffke v. Bakke, 748 N.W.2d 195 (Wis. App. 2008), the Court held that cheerleading is not a “contact sport” for purposes of this statute. It concluded that, although “the risks and the athleticism involved in cheerleading are comparable to those in contact sports,” cheerleading is not a “contact sport” because “it does not involve physical contact between opponents.”

Therefore, the Wisconsin statute at issue did not bar plaintiff's negligence claim against the defendant.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court granted the defendant's petition to appeal this ruling, and the case is awaiting decision after oral argument last fall.

Maybe then we will get an official ruling as to whether cheerleading is actually a sport.

(Article courtesy of the Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog.)

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