Members of a Texas high school cheerleading squad are facing possible suspensions after they disrobed and created a nude human pyramid during the half-time of a football game. Their lawyer says the girls shouldn't be punished for doing what cheerleaders do all the time.
Watching the performance was 'torture,' says one outraged football fan
By Cole Walters, Education Correspondent
FORT WORTH, Tex.—Twelve members of the North Hill High School cheerleading squad are facing suspensions and may be barred from attending the senior prom after they disrobed and created a nude human pyramid during the half-time performance of a football game. Their actions have scandalized their school, and have triggered soul searching within the cheerleading community about the growing practice of nude pyramid building.
The Crusaders vs. the Rebels
Once a season, the football field at North Hill High School is home to an epic battle: the Crusaders of North Hill High vs. the Midland High School Rebels. The rivalry is intense, the history bitter. Members of the North Hill cheerleading squad say that in planning their halftime performance, they wanted to give the rebels an image they'd never forget.
"We were trying to decide what to do to really teach the Rebels a lesson," says cheerleader Ashley Johnson. "Something dramatic, like a deadman," says Johnson, referring to difficult stunt in which a cheerleader flies through the air and is caught by three or four of her team members. "And we definitely wanted to attack the crowd," she says, describing the chants and cheers used to get the audience on its feet.
Get on your knees and pray
When the Crusaders took the field at half-time, the audience knew it was in for some fireworks. The Crusaders have won state and regional championships, and are known for executing their moves with military precision. The Rebels had chosen the battle with the Crusaders to debut a new cheer:
What do you do to a Crusader you meet?
You get down on your knees,
you can't pray on your feet
You ask a mighty Crusader for his mercy to give,
and maybe, just maybe (2 claps) he'll let you live!
The 12 girls ran through the cheer twice, as Crusader fans rose to their feet, applauding wildly. Then, a fateful decision: before the crowd seemed to realize what had happened, the cheerleaders had removed their skirts and monogrammed sweaters, their sport bras and undergarments known as "spankies," and formed a pyramid, a traditional cheering formation in which young women—and the occasional young man—create a human base that gradually narrows until a single cheerleader stands atop the stack.
Is it torture?
Naomi Shelton has been attending battles between the Crusaders and the Rebels for the past 15 years, and was in the crowd that night. "I was shocked to see naked bodies piled up that way. I never want to see anything like that again," says Shelton. "You want to see the Crusaders beat the Rebels but watching that performance was absolute torture."
The lawyer for the North Hill cheerleading squad, Guy Womack, has launched a spirited defense of his clients' conduct, arguing that their bare half-time performance is no different from what squads across the country do regularly. "Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year? Is that torture?"
Support our troupes
For their part, members of the Crusaders squad say that their captain, Lori Leydon, was the brains behind the nude pyramid performance. So badly did Leydon want to humiliate the Rebels, say her fellow cheerleaders, that she abandoned standard cheerleading protocol. "She said she'd gotten the idea from TV," says Kerri Pacheco. "She said it was a totally valid thing to do since we were taking on the Rebels."
Captain Leydon isn't talking; North Hill High School officials say that Leydon may face stronger sanctions than the other cheerleaders since she appears to have been the ringleader of the halftime scandal.
A dishonored corps
The nude pyramid scandal is far from the first incident to cast a dark stain on the honor of America's cheerleaders. Late last year, members of the Danvers, MA cheerleading squad were arrested after they appeared at a football game too drunk to perform, and cursed out school officials before being hauled off the field. Just days later, a racy video in which one nearly nude member of the cheer squad was seen kissing the breasts of another cheerleader, began circulating on the digital devices of fellow students.
In 2003, a member of a Decatur, TX cheerleading squad shot a rival from Bridgeport, TX in the buttocks with a paintball gun. When confronted by police, the shooter confessed and accepted responsibility. Both cheerleaders were then banned from cheering at the big Decatur vs. Bridgeport game. Decatur won the game, 35-14.