Cheer Girls get a loud reply, all right

RANDY RICHMOND -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

Give me an O.

Give me another O. Give me a P and a S and what have you got?

Oops.

That's the lament echoing in the hallways of the London Knights organization this week after an attempt to set up a squad of Cheer Girls set off a storm of protest.

"It's our fault because we used the words 'cheer' and 'girls,' " an exasperated-sounding Stefanie Turnbull, Knights marketing director, said yesterday. "We have to take responsibility."

The Knights never intended to set up a team of scantily clad cheerleaders dancing up and down the stairs of the John Labatt Centre, Turnbull said.

What they wanted was a squad to boost promotions, such as T-shirt tosses, and a group to help fans cheer even louder.

"The fans tend to be real nice and loud when we score a goal, but they are fairly quiet at other times and we want to get them cheering," Turnbull said.

So Turnbull announced in early November the Knights were looking for 12 to 30 "enthusiastic, talented and dedicated young women" for the Cheer Girls.

Only minutes after she put the word on the Knights online message board, the first reply came in.

"Please say it isn't so."

Turnbull said she got hundreds of e-mails and calls, many of them negative and nasty.

Some complained the Cheer Girls would distract fans from the game. Many more said the Knights were degrading women, a charge that particularly offended Turnbull.

"I would never do that," she said.

"The Hunters would never do that."

The Cheer Girls were to be dressed in athletic wear, long pants and ordinary shirts, she said.

Even so, it was clear the name gave the wrong impression.

So the team has changed the name to the Knights Squad -- subject to input by fans -- and added a call for young men to join up. The deadline for applicants is Dec. 7.

On the Knights website, the role of the new squad is made clear and is clearly more suitable to London: "To provide entertainment to the fans of London Knights in a cultured and dignified way."


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