Beauty plays the beast in lingerie football
In the latest addition to America’s lucrative, sometimes bizarre niche mixing sex and sport, a Los Angeles man has founded a Lingerie Football League.Freeport -- The women of American football's newly created Lingerie Football League are putting a new twist on the term exhibition match.
The idea is the latest addition in the United States to a lucrative, sometimes bizarre niche mixing sex and sport.
In Freeport, on Long Island outside New York, two dozen young women stripped to skimpy gym clothes Thursday and battled for seven spots in the New York Majesty, one of 10 teams in a newly created league.
Two male trainers, fully clothed, put the women through agility exercises and football drills that would have been standard on any team -- had the players been dressed.
The league's Los Angeles-based founder, Mitchell Mortaza, instructed hopefuls to play this brutal game to the maximum: "If you prance, you're gonna get killed."
One contestant limped off with a leg sprain, another left nursing a knocked head, and another suffered bloody parallel scratches across her bare midriff -- apparently from an opponent's nails.
But they also had to smile. The dress code flagged for the session was "cute."
Sex is perhaps the most ubiquitous marketing tool in the United States, while flesh-baring sports like Gladiator contests, roller derbies, and mud wrestling have vigorous followings.
Mortaza, a 35-year-old sports marketer, wants to ride that sex bandwagon right into the vast, intensely rich, and stubbornly macho world of football.
For six years he has organized a so-called Lingerie Bowl, in which scantily clad women play for a pay-per-view audience during the Super Bowl halftime.
Now he is expanding to a year-round tournament featuring teams that range from the San Diego Seduction to the Chicago Bliss.
Players will be semi-professional, with earnings depending on ticket sales in stadiums like the New York Majesty's future 18,000-seat home on Long Island.
But why the insistence on bras and underpants?
"You have to be beautiful. We make no bones about it. That's the difference between this league and the myriad of others," Mortaza said. "We have to be able to market you."
Asked if he would allow in players who played well but did not meet his standards for beauty, he answered flatly: "No." An unofficial weight limit of 120-125 pounds (54-56 kilos) is also in force, he said.
Team hopefuls, who number in the thousands across the country, according to organizers, say they are untroubled at being considered exploited.
"They say it's degrading, but it's not. We don't just stand there looking pretty. We hit pretty hard," said Sovann Wyong, 29, who handles luggage for JetBlue airline and flew down from Boston for the try-out.
"When they play football, guys wear tight pants and show their physique, their arms," she said.
Allison Vernon, 27, who works as a personal fitness trainer in Manhattan, admitted she found the "lingerie a little scarier than the (football) drills."
"Is it sexist? Probably most people I went to college with would think so. I went to an all-women's liberal arts college," she said.
But 25-year-old Anika Edwards said one look at the league's racy website, www.lflus.com, left her convinced. She took a day off from work at a hair salon to attend the try-out.
"I've done a little modelling. Then I saw the website and I thought: that's so me. There are girls and they're playing football. I love playing football. I love to model."
According to the one of the team stalwarts, the very blonde and unseasonably tanned Melissa Teixeira, 23, accusations of sexism are off the mark.
"I don't think it's sexist at all. We're doing athletic activity as well. We're not just modelling," she said, adding: "As a model I've been in my underwear in public, so it doesn't bother me."
Would Mortaza take the field in just his underpants?
"I'll keep working on my abs. Give me a month and I'll get there," he said.