Time Magazine: NBA Teams Are Slowly Eliminating All-Female Dance Squads. Dancers Say That’s Sexist.

From Time Magazine

NBA Teams Are Slowly Eliminating All-Female Dance Squads. Dancers Say That’s Sexist.

By Paige Skinner

July 29, 2019

On May 15, an executive with the Sacramento Kings told 48 female contract employees on a conference call that the team would be “evolving” their dance squad, and the women’s contracts would end June 30.

The 48 women made up the official Kings Dancers, the elderly dance team The Classics, and the dance team for the G-League affiliate, the Stockton Kings. The Breakers, a break-dancing team made up of seven male dancers, were not on the call, nor were the co-ed entertainment teams: The Dunking Ushers, Drumline, 91Sticks, and the Sacramento Kings Street Team.

According to two women who were on the call, the executive told them that the Kings were moving in a “more inclusive” direction and would eliminate the three all-female teams, replacing the Kings Dancer and The Classics with a co-ed hip-hop team called the 916 Crew, and replacing the Stockton Kings dancers with a co-ed multi-discipline street team called 209 Hype. The women were encouraged to try out, but were not guaranteed a spot on the new teams—the same process required of them each season. One member of The Classics joked during the call, “I think I can hip, but I don’t think I can hop.”

Kellie Jackson and Mariah Palmiter, both Kings Dancers since 2016, were on the 30-minute call. Palmiter asked if the April hiring of the new Kings head coach, Luke Walton, had anything to do with eliminating the all-female dance teams. Just a few weeks earlier, former Spectrum SportsNet reporter Kelli Tennant had filed a civil lawsuit against Walton accusing him of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2014. Walton has categorically denied the allegations.

Palmiter found the timing suspicious, wondering if the organization was worried about showcasing young female dancers while dealing with the accusations against Walton. But she says when she asked this question, she was told, “We’d like to keep this a productive call.”

A Kings spokesperson told TIME: “[The decision to evolve the dance teams] was discussed internally for months and was finalized before the end of season.”

In the past 14 months, eight of the 30 NBA teams have replaced their all-female dance teams with co-ed groups. It’s a trend that some dancers say reflects a fraught societal response to the #MeToo movement: If there’s any chance you could be accused of sexism, just distance yourself from women. Others wonder if franchises are eliminating all-female squads because of prior pushes for better pay and working conditions. NBA teams insist they are merely diversifying their entertainment squads, but dancers, many of whom have trained and aspired to be on these teams for years, say the decision to replace all-female teams is itself sexist, reducing the number of good career opportunities for women.

NBA dancers have been part of the league for more than 30 years, and while their positions are typically part-time, many dancers say they spend more than 20 hours per week learning, practicing, and performing the dances at games. They also represent the team publicly, volunteering in the community and appearing at events to dance or sign autographs.

Palmiter says the decision feels like “a slap in the face.”

“We were always fighting our own organization to get the credit, attention, and respect that we deserved,” she says, “and in hindsight they were already pushing us out of the door.”

Read the rest of the article at Time.com.

1 comment to Time Magazine: NBA Teams Are Slowly Eliminating All-Female Dance Squads. Dancers Say That’s Sexist.

  • keef666

    There’s only so much Hip Hop the fans can stand watching, after that it becomes boring, leave the squads alone and that includes the NFL.