Last year, I said that 2017 was a year of change and it was, but it was not anything like the type of change we saw in 2018. The Me Too movement and other social currents have indelibly impacted professional cheerleading and not for good, in my opinion. Numerous lawsuits by former cheerleaders have highlighted the darker side of the profession and the traditionally low compensation paid to these performers has been an embarrassment considering that league revenues have never been higher. Exposing these issues in such a public manner has left many with a very negative and, perhaps, unfair assessment of the current state of professional cheerleading.
These events have led to the termination of some long time directors of cheerleading and a reevaluation of the profession itself. Many changes ensued, such as the role and nature of professional cheerleaders with respect to game days and tangential events like calendar shoots and in suite appearances. Additionally, dance teams have reconsidered the utility of those hyper sexy and provocative uniforms that have defined the endeavor.
Skin is out and modesty is the new reality lest the NFL and NBA run afoul of new social norms aggressively advocated by progressive minds. In 2018, you do not want to appear to be promoting out of favor beliefs no longer tolerated by some people, especially if you are a multi billion dollar corporation.
There are voices, such as HBO’s Real Sports and several newspapers such as USA Today who question whether or not professional cheerleading should exist at all. Let me state unequivocally that I am not in favor of eliminating professional cheerleaders. I enjoy them immensely and in 2018, it’s okay to say so and to like what they do, but I feel like I am in the minority and a sea of change is growing that will inextricably alter what we fans have come to love and enjoy.
The times they are a changing, and in my opinion, not for the good. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the existence of professional cheerleaders represented a certain female sexual liberation and there were movements to force them to conform to a certain modesty based belief system. That attempt came from social conservatives who decried the overtly sexual nature of cheerleaders. In 2018, that effort have been supplanted by voices on the left who expect people, in particular young women, to adhere to progressive belief systems mandating how a women should act and dress in modern times. It strikes me as ironic that the political forces attempting to repress professional cheerleaders are now the extreme left.
And why should cheerleaders conform to someone else’s ideals, i.e. progressives or anyone else, that have no vested interest in professional cheerleading? It’s 2018 and it should be perfectly acceptable for young women to become cheerleaders and dress as they want, overtly sexual or otherwise. No one is coercing them and from all intents and purposes, these women know what they are getting into from what I hear. They know what’s going on and choose to do so.
OutkicktheCoverage.com: In Defense of Cheerleaders and Cheerleading
Now I am not advocating that cheerleaders should be exploited, financially or sexually. Cheerleaders should be paid commensurate with their value to the organization and I believe what cheerleaders bring to the NFL or the NBA is significant and valuable.
And I am certainly not advocating that it is acceptable for cheerleaders to be exploited sexually and be put in situations where they might be. Organizations should protect them and ensure their welfare while performing their duties, just like you would look out for the welfare of the players or coaches.
Protect them from exploitation and hostile environments. It is the right thing to do…do we really need to say this in 2018 and overtly state what we all know should be done?
This is my assessment of professional cheerleading in 2018. And why is this relevant for a retrospective on the top 10 cheerleaders photos? Because I have experienced the negative consequences of this reality as I covered professional cheerleading for UltimateCheerleaders.com. In the current environment, the NFL, NBA and other sports leagues have undergone a retrenchment as a result of all this negative publicity and have attempted to staunch the bad press while they address this new reality. And this retrenchment means less media opportunities for people like myself who are trying to provide some positive publicity to an endeavor under siege. And there is less content out there as a result.
As for myself, the number of events that I have covered in 2018 have trickled down to a scant few as a result of this new environment and perhaps next year, I will cover even less as I know that there are many teams and organizations that are considering more severe changes to that which we all love.
That is the future of professional cheerleading.
On to my favorite photos of 2018.
10. The University of Georgia Marching Band at the 2018 Rose Parade
I like this photo on several levels. I like the symmetry between all the flag bearers in formation. I like the bright colors that are so strikingly vibrant. But what I like the most is the attractiveness of brunette flag bearer in the center, whose shapely curves so perfectly define the feminine form.
9. Houston Texans Cheerleader Mallory
One of my favorite events of the year is the annual P.R.O. Convention in Atlanta. It is the premier professional cheerleading convention in the land and I always have a wonderful time taking photographs of the most beautiful cheerleaders in professional sports.
I almost did not attend this year because the organizers were seriously considering not allowing any media to cover the event because of all the negative publicity that was generated by the recent controversies. I was fortunate because I had been a participant for the past eight years and I had developed a good relationship with the organizers and as a consequence, I was the only outsider allowed to attend.
Every year, I like to start out with a bang and shoot one of the hottest cheerleaders at the convention and this year, the first cheerleader I photographed was Houston Texans Cheerleader Mallory. I have photographed her the past three years and she always delivers some of the best photos I get at the convention and she did not disappoint.
8. The 2018 Phoenix Suns Dancers Auditions
One of the events that I attended last year was the 2018 Phoenix Suns Dancers Auditions and they always bring out a good crowd of dancer hopefuls. It was no surprise that strongest candidates were the returning veterans who displayed a higher level of refinement in their dance movements, presentation and appearance. They looked like NBA dancers and, of course, they were.
One of the dancers that stood out was a returning veteran named Kayla, who had all the qualities that you want in an NBA dancer…namely looks, dance talent, and showmanship.
7. Washington Redskins Cheerleader Ashley
One of the primary reasons why I wanted to attend the annual P-R-O Convention back in the day was to photograph the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. I think that the First Ladies of Football are one of the hottest cheerleading squads in the NFL and they have some of the sexiest uniforms in professional sports, though they have toned them down this year due to all the hubbub. But at P-R-O, the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders were at their finest and that is a great look.
And one of the First Ladies of Football that caught my eye was a lovely girl named Ashley who is a great dancer and looks great in their uniform. I got many great shots of her and her fellow teammates, but this is my favorite photo of the bunch.
6. The 2018 Phoenix Suns Dancers Auditions
The Phoenix Suns Dancers Auditions yielded several exceptional shots and they were mainly of the veterans and a few others who showed a little bit more than the typical first timers. It was quite clear that these girls were going full out and showed the judges that that they belonged on the team. And because of this desire and dedication, they had more to offer and it showed in the images that I captured.
The photo above is one of my favorites from the event and to me, it captures something as simple as learning a dance and yet is still compelling in a way that draws in your attention.
5. Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader Darby
I have been covering the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders off and on since 2009 and one of my favorite cheerleaders to photograph is a girl named Darby, whom I first photographed a few years ago…and ever since. She is remarkably beautiful and very photogenic and every opportunity I get to photograph her, I take because I always get some great shots.
This photograph was taken at the 2018 P-R-O Convention in Atlanta and there were many beautiful cheerleaders, but Darby was one of the few that stood out.
4. The 2018 Charger Girls Auditions
One of my favorite events to attend is the Charger Girl auditions because it always draws a large number of beautiful and talented dancers who aspire to become a professional cheerleader. And you can say I am partial to the Charger Girls because I was a long time season ticket holder and photographed the Charger Girls for almost two decades. And over that time span, I got many, many amazing photographs, so any chance I get to photograph the Charger Girls…or aspiring Charger Girls, I avail myself of the opportunity.
This photo is one of returning veteran Melissa who has that something extra that stands out. Perhaps it’s her smile or maybe her looks or her dance ability…or a combination of all three. One thing that is for sure, Melissa demands your attention when she’s performing and she stands out amongst a sea of beautiful and talented dancers.
3. Minnesota Vikings Cheerleader at the 2018 P-R-O Convention
Of all the squads at the 2018 P-R-O Convention in Atlanta, I think I got the most keepers from the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders. Beautiful girls. Beautiful dancers. Beautiful uniforms. All these ingredients make for a great photo and in the photo above, you have all three in abundance. Nothing beats a pretty girl, a great smile and a hair flip for some hot cheerleader action…and for these reasons, this photo is my third favorite photo of 2018.
2. Arizona Cardinals Cheerleader Coley
Every year I cover the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders, I am always amazed at the fresh faced girls that they find to join their squad. There’s a certain quality, an All American girl look, that seems to symbolize the Arizona Cardinals Cheerleaders and these girls are the ones that I always seem attracted to.
This year, one of these All American girls caught my attention at the 2018 P-R-O Convention in Atlanta and she gave me one of the most memorable photos of the year. That girl was Nicole or Coley as she is known on the squad.
Not all of my favorite images are of the “fun, frolicking dance” type. Sometimes a more focused and determined expression is the type of shot captures my attention and perfectly summarizes an event like the P-R-O Convention where the majority of the time is spent learning dances and that learning process can be quite laborious and intense. The image above represents what went on in Atlanta where over 300 professional cheerleaders worked long and hard to learn over 23 dance routines and because of that, it is one of my favorite images of the year.
1. Minnesota Vikings Cheerleader Grace
My favorite photo of 2018 is a photo of a Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders named Grace that I took at the P-R-O Convention in Atlanta. She was a rookie and had the good sense to line up front where most of the veterans usually position themselves. This afforded me good shooting opportunities and that was the key for me to get some up close images of this expressive cheerleader. And I was quite taken with this young girl as she was definitely a fresh face with enthusiasm and a joyfulness in her dance styling and that made for some very interesting photos.
It’s always the rookies that have the bright eyed, first timer’s look that are the most compelling images. Everything is so new and exciting to them and that comes across in the photos I get and Grace’s youthful exuberance caught my attention.
Here’s a bonus pic of her that exemplifies what I mean.