I’ve been arguing for a while that the whole phenomenon of lingerie and bikini sports leagues aren’t really a phenomenon as much as they are lazy marketing gimmicks that are seized upon by a media that loves novelty in all its forms. Only one of them – the Lingerie Football League – has any degree of success, and even that success has been tempered by the flood of bad press the league has gotten, not just from persnickety feminists like myself who tire of the idea that the only good woman is a bikini-clad woman. The players themselves, both former and current, have criticized the league’s lack of quality medical care and equipment. In one case, the majority of a team quit after their coach was fired. The head of the league himself, Mitch Mortaza, has sent emails that make him look a bully and a jerk. The contract contains nudity clauses. The players don’t even get paid. That’s some serious bullshit from a sports league that purports to be successful.
In short, the Lingerie Football League is a whole cluster of fuckery, and the outfits the athletes wear are the least of its issues.
It’s seems like I’m not the only one who thinks the whole notion of a lingerie-clad tackles and linebackers is weak, at least if the league’s major rebranding is anything to go by. After taking the league on hiatus for the last season, Mortaza unveiled the new LFL to the world earlier this month. Gone is the moniker “Lingerie Football League,” and in its place is the new “Legends Football League.” The tagline is no longer “True Fantasy Football,” but “Women of the Gridiron.” The “dollar store” shoulder pads, as one player put it, are gone, replaced with pads meant to “increase protection.” (Of course, this begs the question: why did the league send the players out in such sub-standard equipment in the first place?)
Mortaza himself has said the goal is to “shift the focus to the sport.” (He also used the e-word – “empower” – in what I can only describe as the death blow that has finally rendered the word utterly and completely meaningless.)
Sounds like an improvement, right? Well, not exactly. Take the uniforms:
You can call this a “performance bikini” all you want, but slapping the word “performance” in front of it does not change the fact that it’s a bikini. And yes, this is similar to beach volleyball uniforms, but guess what? Those women are on the beach, not playing full tackle football on Astroturf.
And check out this promo video:
As Gabe Zaldivar at Bleacher Report put it, “I applaud the league for lending far more nuance to the brand by releasing a promo of hot women working out and sweating all over the place.”
In fairness to the video, I love that that the promo is a Barbie weight-free zone, and that the women are shown looking seriously buff while handling barbells. It’s a solid reminder that we aren’t talking about Victoria’s Secret models here, but women who are actual athletes who train hard and play hard. So I guess, mini props are in order? Although, I would also suggest if the league was serious about putting some focus on the sport, they would have shown the women actually playing the sport. Just a thought.
So basically, the much-vaunted re-branding is basically…a name change. Oh, and they got rid of some lacy collars on their uniforms. The people in charge of the re-branding really earned their paychecks, didn’t they?
This is the thing: Mortaza and the LFL management can talk about how successful the league is until they asphyxiate, but the fact is, you don’t re-brand a product that is doing just fine. If things were as great as they keep saying they are, then why would they go on hiatus? Why would they launch a whole PR initiative? Why would they change the name of the league, for crying out loud?
When the league officials are so willing to part with the most identifiable aspect of their brand, I can only assume that the idea of women playing full-tackle football in their underwear has not held quite the appeal so many people once assumed it would.
That said, I’m willing to provide for the possibility that I am wrong, and that changing the league’s name and giving the athletes some real shoulder pads is all that is required to turn the Legends Football League into a successful women’s sports league. And then, who knows, maybe the LFL can treat the athletes like professionals and actually, you know, pay them.