Baltimore Ravens cheerleader says she was benched from Super Bowl because of weight gain9:36 pm - 01/31/2013
A veteran Baltimore Ravens cheerleader says she wasn't included on the squad's Super Bowl roster because of a slight weight gain.
Friends of the benched cheerer, Courtney Lenz, have started an online petition to get her to New Orleans. It claims the Ravens have done an "injustice." The decision to keep her in Baltimore was an insult to healthy body image, the petition says.
It has more than 23,000 signatures and 5,000 Facebook likes.
Lenz, 23, has been on the Ravens sideline for five seasons. She has been featured in team calendars and appeared at events on behalf of the team. Though NFL rules dictate only 32 of the Ravens' 60 cheerleaders can attend Sunday's game, Lenz figured she'd make the cut because of her seniority with the team. All women with more than three years experience are on the Super Bowl roster.
Why not Lenz? She thinks it's because she gained 1.4 pounds during the season. She has told various news outlets that she added the weight to her usual 124-pound frame. The organization wanted her to get down to 120 pounds, she claims.
"They didn't specifically say that [it was because of the weight], but when it comes down to it, that's the only disciplinary action I had during the year,'' she told NBC's Today. "I got benched because of my weight, and they said that was the reason. Anybody that had disciplinary action taken during the season was automatically disqualified. However, there are some girls on the team that were also benched for their weight and are going."
Wait, so some women who had weight gain issues are going? Doesn't that sink Lenz's contention that size was the factor in her benching?
Further clouding the issue is that Lenz retired at the end of the regular season. She wanted to focus on pursuits outside cheerleading. The team had told her she "didn't put as many appearance hours" in as she should have this season.
"Our selection process was based upon three criteria: seniority, performance ability and personal conduct throughout the season,'' a Ravens spokeswoman said in a statement. "As much as we would like to take the whole team, we are unable to do so, due to parameters set by the NFL.''
Lenz has done interviews to draw attention to her story and seems to hope the hot-button issue of body image will get her to New Orleans. The larger cause is noble and important. Her sob story is less so.
"This season she earned her B.S. degree and got a full time job... Bad call," the petition reads, in an unintentional celebration of misplaced priorities. She made the decision to retire and isn't owed anything.
If the Ravens indeed benched her for weight, then Lenz's benching is worth a second look. If there were other extenuating circumstances, which there appear to be, then she should take a page from Alex Smith and accept her benching with dignity.