End-of-season awards banquets are a common practice among high school sports teams, to acknowledge and celebrate team and individual accomplishments. They’re not, however, typically used to comment on student-athletes’ bodies. But that’s exactly what one cheer squad’s award ceremony did last March, and it’s landed the school in some hot water.
The New York Times reports that attendees of an award ceremony for the cheerleading team at Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wis., were surprised when coaches announced "Big Boobie," "Big Booty" and "String Bean" awards.
During the presenting of these awards, coaches allegedly told the "Big Boobie" award winner that her ability to perform her cheer routines was "a feat," and proclaimed of the "Big Booty" award winner on the microphone in front of the assembled crowd of more than 150 people that "We love her butt. Everybody loves her butt."
The ceremony, held at a Kenosha catering hall in March 2018 left parents and team members appalled, and even caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. Despite what coaches described as good-natured teasing, the ACLU has issued a warning to the school district, saying it may sue, and alleging that the district failed to "take adequate corrective action" despite having received multiple complaints from parents and even other coaches.
According to the ACLU's letter, the mock awards were representative of a broader culture of body shaming, sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
The ACLU letter outlines how Tremper principal Steven Knecht responded to complaints from parents. According to the letter, Knecht made attempts to placate parents by saying that the awards "were meant to be funny" and that the coaches were "just joking around."
It also describes a meeting between a district human resources official and the head cheer coach in which HR directed the coach to write apology letters and to resign. While the coach did reportedly write apologies, she refused to resign and remained with the team during the 2018-2019 school year.
The ACLU is calling on the district to conduct a comprehensive anti-harassment training for all employees, and to institute appropriate discipline against officials caught up in the mock awards.