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Open Letter to the Boston Celtics Management

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on December 14, 2014

Please get rid of the Celtic Dancers

I am a longtime season ticket holder, veteran basketball coach, fan, husband, and father. With the eye of an instructor to (mostly) adult players, and from our seats directly behind the visitors’ bench, I watch the opposing coach(es) and study the moves of the players on the floor. Game in and game out, there is on display the intelligence and athleticism and dedication of the players, the hard work of the coaching staffs. I’m a former longtime college coach who was dedicated to that game, meaning the college game, but, really, the best basketball in the world is in the NBA. Brad Stevens has the Celtics playing hard. They are bought in. The games are close and competitive. It’s great to watch the games.

Still, there is something missing for me. It’s simple and sad: I wish I could bring my daughter who loves basketball to the games. But I can’t. I just don’t know how I can bring an impressionable five-year-old girl to the games when the Celtics (and all NBA teams) demean women and negatively impact girls of all ages by insisting on including in the program barely clad, pelvic-thrusting, butt spanking, hair-flying, out-of-rhythm undulating, on the floor writhing, porn-straddling, quote-unquote dancers. It is ridiculous and embarrassing and completely unoriginal. Honestly, how am I, or any father or mother, supposed to sit there with my daughter, our daughters (and sons) and watch that? What message is my daughter going to take from it?

She loves to watch players dribble, shoot, pass, steal the ball. She can dribble already with either hand and doesn’t look at the ball. She’s proud of this. Yet I can’t take her to these games to see the best practitioners of this skill in person.

Imagine I am at TD Bank Garden. Celtics are playing, say, the Cleveland Cavaliers. You know: LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving. Crazy talent. Awesome basketball game. Interesting on about 40 different levels. Dazzling to a child. And then the Celtics Dancers come on. My daughter, my sweet impressionable kindergartner who, in addition to playing ball, likes to dress-up as a princess every now and then, is staring at the women, grownup girls, who are on the floor, literally on the floor, half butt-naked, in front of a sold-out crowd. I wanted to bring my daughter to see the best basketball in the world and I am sitting there feeling like I will have to answer to the Department of Social Services. It’s porn.

It’s not that a five-year-old wouldn’t be drawn in to the flash and noise of the “family entertainment” on full display. My question is how do I explain the Celtics Dancers? That men like that? That women like to act like that so men will like them? In public? In front of 18,624 people?

There are so many other halftime entertainment options: kids’ drum corps, musicians, skilled athletes from other endeavors, acrobats, leprechauns, and real dancers from all our neighborhoods and all walks of life. Why can’t you choose these? There are enough other awful things to explain about life: war and death and meanness of all kinds. Why must you add another?

What does this display have to do with basketball? Better question: What does this have to do with the attitude of men toward women?

Oh look, here is the answer made evident by watching: Women are objects, pieces of meat, and what’s wrong with slapping around or knocking out a piece of meat every now and then? Right, Ray Rice? What do you say, Jason Kidd? Connect the dots, Celtics ownership.

Another question: Do the Celtics have such little faith in the product they put on the floor during games that they feel they must peddle porn during time-outs? The tepid applause after the dancers leave the floor ought to be instructive.

In February 2004, Red Auerbach said, “They’re just waiting for me to die so they can get cheerleaders”. He was so right (though cheerleaders would be an improvement on what you have now). You waited until Red was dead. And the dancers writhe all along the spot on the floor where it says Red Auerbach. Nice.

So finally, what should I say to my daughter when she stares out on the court and sees a bunch of young women who are there to peddle the sexual aspect of their bodies, and nothing more? That’s life? That’s what important, smart, rich men think you and the world need? If the Celtics ownership had any vision or wisdom or heart or, frankly, balls, they’d step up and be the first to get rid of the dancers; have it be about basketball and teamwork and hard work and fun rooting for the home team for everyone, little girls and boys and their dads and moms included.

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13 Responses to “Open Letter to the Boston Celtics Management”

  1. David Yuguchi said

    Thank you for your open letter. I hope the the Celtics listen.

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  2. Naomi. Deutscher said

    Steve,
    You’ve said it so well & maybe it will be heard when more men start speaking up about the turn off & creepiness about seeing bad dancers try to make up for their lack of skill by being pole dancers. I don’t blame the women trying to earn a living as much as management not tuning into what matters to their audience who are mostly above or below the age of 12-18 yr old boys.

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  3. SJ Rozan said

    Fabulous! Let me add that the WNBA, where nearly-nude women thrusting their pelvises would be an embarrassment, use all those other entertainments: “kids’ drum corps, musicians, skilled athletes from other endeavors, acrobats, leprechauns, and real dancers from all our neighborhoods and all walks of life.” Well, maybe not leprechauns. But dog acts. (And the NY Liberty have the Timeless Torches. The numbers on their backs are their ages. If you must sexy-dance, this is how to do it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4npQSoqs6HI) Anywya, I’m reposting. Thanks, Coach.

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  4. Dave said

    Nice article Steve.. Did your wife make you write that? First of all, you sound ridiculous. You think that your basketball resume justifies you to be able to judge dancing? I ‘m pretty sure coaching your daughter’s kindergarten team for a couple years doesn’t make you a veteran coach. I also have a background in basketball, but in no way do I think that it somehow qualifies me to make judgements on the dancers. Have you danced before? Can you name one type of step?

    I know one of the Celtics dancers. Whether she is my cousin, wife, girlfriend, sister, or friend is none of your business. However, you have 0 idea of the hard work that she has put in throughout her entire LIFE that has allowed her to get to this point. This is not some job that someone decides to up and try out for randomly because they think it would be cool. The girl that I know has been dancing her entire life, and she is damn good. Whether it be ballet, jazz, contemporary, or another form of dance, she has excelled in it, as have the other ladies on this team. I can see how you would think they are just “barely clad, pelvic-thrusting, butt spanking, hair-flying, out-of-rhythm undulating, on the floor writhing, porn-straddling, quote-unquote dancers” because you have NO idea what you’re talking about. As far as their clothing, what is wrong with their stomach showing? Does this upset you? Not a fan of the beach? They wear a lot more clothes than beach goers do by the way.

    Listen, I’m sure you just decided to write a quick article and get some attention. That’s fine, we all need hobbies. However, you have no idea what it takes to perform those moves that these girls do day in and day out. The skill and coordination to perform a specific dance step just at the right time to each beat of the music is not something a “porn star” can do. It takes YEARS to get as good as they are. If you are not someone who can recognize, or appreciate that, than shut up.

    The girls on this team are more than just dancers. I’m sure you think they are just airheads who wave around their pretty hair and smile without a thought in their mind. These girls vary from accountants, biomedical engineers, nurses, teachers, legal assistants, students, etc. Not only do they hold down a full time job, but they also spend numerous hours per week driving back and forth to Boston for practices and games. Not to mention that there are babysitters that probably make more money per hour than they do while they’re dancing. They don’t do it for the money, they do it because they love to dance and they love the thrill of dancing in front of thousands of people, just like the players.

    Again, I do not expect you to be able to appreciate their skills because your too busy being a “veteran basketball coach and pretending that your daughter is going to be in the WNBA some day. What happens when she decides she likes dancing? Then joins a studio to learn how to better her skills? Then decides she would love to dance in front of the crowd at the Celtics home games? I can hear your answer now. “No child of mine is going to be involved in that pornography.” What?

    Red Auerbach was born in 1917. You think times have changed since then? You think maybe dancers should be allowed to roof for their team just like they do for every other sport on the planet? Ya me too. You don’t like smart, beautiful women who can also dance entertaining you at half times and timeouts of the games? Maybe you should give up your season tickets and join your wife’s book club instead.

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    • Nice comment, Dave. I’ll refrain from trading insults. I’ll just try to be clear: My issue is not with the dancers, my issue is with the Celtics promoting this sort of entertainment. The dancers may love to dance; they may put in a fair amount of time and effort into their performances; they may have skill as dancers; they may have great jobs and graduated from outstanding universities, but what I see is not dancing. Sure it’s choreographed and it’s to music, but when they are performing, do you honestly think the men, especially the men, in the audience are saying to themselves “gee, that is some pretty good dancing!” Be serious.

      I didn’t and don’t intend to demean or ridicule those women. I meant to voice my discomfort at bringing my daughter to the games. The world is full of images that are demeaning to women and portray women as sexual objects and not much more. It’s harmful to women; plain and simple. I know I can’t get away from that and it’s my job and my wife’s job to make sure our kids don’t fall prey to it. I do what I can to limit that exposure and to explain it as well as I can. My life has been basketball, playing and coaching. My daughter loves basketball. The “dancing show” is peddling titillation and I think it has no good place at a basketball game.

      As to swimwear at the beach? I don’t think they’d would be doing at Revere Beach on a sunny day what they do at The Garden on game night. Maybe when the sun goes down but I’m thinking not for public display.

      I’ll raise my daughter (and son) as I see fit, and that will include them respecting themselves. I suspect all the dancers wish the same for themselves.

      Lastly, that idea of joining my wife’s book club is a good one. I’ll ask her. Thanks.

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  5. Jerry said

    I’m more on Dave’s side on this one. I’m a big basketball fan and a father of two daughters. I actually prefer the more acrobatic entertaining at the Garden; the gymnastics, etc. and I find the Celtics dancers pretty average actually and generic. That said, they are fairly tame compared to your average hip hop video.

    Steve you apparently haven’t been aware of the trend toward sexualized “dancing” over the past generation or so. I’ve taken my young daughter to many games and she enjoys the whole experience including the dancing. I could do without it but it’s part of the entertainment package that keeps people coming despite a pretty mediocre product on the court.

    Your inference that such dancing encourages sexual abuse is a stretch to say the least. The feminist deconstruction is better left at the Women’s Studies department of your local university. Many women like to dance and show themselves off and most men (and women) enjoy watching. Kind of the way the world works. Our daughters have lots of choices and thank God for that. They could do worse than develop their dancing skills to a point where they could perform in front of 16,0000 people a night.

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    • Josh K. said

      First, even though I’m closer to Steve’s view on this issue, I appreciate Jerry’s ability to express disagreement without adding gratuitous insults. Given the prevalence of nasty anonymous posts on websites (including at least one in response to Steve’s piece), this kind of reasonable debate needs to be encouraged.

      Second, it sounds to me like Jerry seems to simply be shaking his head and accepting what he calls the trend toward sexualized “dancing” — and, as Isabelle points out in her post, that trend has been toward sexualizing the clothing and behavior of increasingly younger & younger girls. The fact that the Celtics dancers are “tame” compared to hip hop videos falls pretty well short of a ringing endorsement.

      I think it’s important to resist societal trends like this rather than slump our shoulders and retreat to “our daughters have lots of choices.” We need to do all we can to see that as many of those choices as possible are good ones. Maybe watching the Celtics dancers doesn’t automatically cause a man to assault women, but you don’t need to be majoring in Women’s Studies to recognize that this kind of objectification of women’s bodies falls somewhere along the spectrum of attitudes that demean women’s worth.

      I’m a father, I have two sons, and I’m really glad Steve spoke out on this.

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  6. Isabelle said

    It has been very interesting for me to follow this thread. As a female basketball player, college educator, and social science researcher, including on gender issues, this is a very complex topic to approach. As Jerry says, it is absolutely true that sexualized dancing has been going on for a few decades now, and not only in sports. It is also absolutely true that the recruitment process and the energy and dedication that the dancers put in for every match shows that it is not just a leisure for them and that they take this very seriously and are proud of it.

    That said, I don’t think it is hard to argue that the current cheerleading practice objectifies women’s bodies for the pleasure of often (male) watchers and players. It also insists on the importance of one type of “perfect” body and form. All of this makes me very uncomfortable as a mother and a woman.

    I applaud you Steve for being courageous and sending this letter. The fact that you are doing this as a male player, trainer, and supporter says a lot about your capacity to reflect on the marketization, commercialization, and sexualized aspects of the sport. And it is still rare — but much needed.

    I find it profoundly insulting that other men would think that your wife made you write this comment. I feel insulted as a woman. And I would feel insulted if I were your wife. Are men that dominated by their female partners that they do not have the ability themselves to see the over-sexualization of a sport entertainment, — and critically reflect on it? Aren’t we living in progressive America where actually men can also actually think for themselves and express criticism at the use of female bodies and of sexualized dancing for business/advertisement/sports ? And why would we have to take this over-sexualization as granted, and not address it? The management of the Celtics (and many other teams) has a role and responsibility to play in a society in which the sport is hugely influential.

    For me, the problem starts earlier too. I went a few years ago to a middle school basketball game in the Boston area and was shocked by the attire and the moves of 12-year old cheerleaders. The screaming of male adolescents on the benches were also very disturbing. Again, I know and appreciate the dedication that cheerleaders put to the dancing, but I find it a bit problematic that this tradition of female sexualized (early on) cheerleading is not questioned and addressed when enrollment, training, and practice starts — at adolescence — when women are learning on how to deal with a changing body, image, and the like. This is a very delicate moment of young female students and a broader discussion and reflection on how our society (and professional sports in society) shapes female attitudes, decisions, and life in general is essential.

    PS: I myself would also not bring my 4-year old daughter to an NBA game for an additional reason: The level of noise and the craziness of advertising everywhere. But I think she’d love a great college game!

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  7. Al said

    I appreciate and empathize with Coach Steve’s article and all the comments and appreciate that everyone wants to create a better world for all of us. That said, I disagree with the premise and conclusions. When you really get down to the root cause, the real reason why those of us who don’t want the dancers at the game (myself included) is because we don’t like it. The rest of the reasons and rationale come afterwards and are biased by our original dislike. Don’t have to take my word for it, everyone can examine themselves to test if it’s true.

    Since this is a basketball oriented forum, I assume we all enjoy the game, but what if I turned it on its end? What do our kids think of us going to watch impossibly tall men who are paid millions just to put a ball through a hoop? What do they think that nearly all of the men on the court are black and most of the observers are not? What about the celebratory look at me displays when making a 3 pointer or the stare downs and screams after a dunk? What do they think of being surrounded by fans going delirious with joy as they had scored the game winning bucket or screaming obscenities at their very same heroes if they lose? What about the abuse taken by the referees, from players, coaches, and fans?

    There’s no shortage of dislikes and you can blame any of it for societal woes. Which is more likely the cause for Ray Rice’s violence, the dancers or that his day job with tens of thousands of people exhorting him to deliver violent blows to other men, the harder the better, requiring constant aggression and possibly hatred? I can’t pretend to know the reason, but I don’t think it’s right to blame dancers who as far as I know haven’t incited Brad Stevens or any of the Celtics to beat their wives (not to mention any of us). There aren’t any Celtic dancers in Africa, yet the violence towards women in many countries is beyond our imagination horrifying.

    When I was 5 years old, I wouldn’t have noticed the dancers because as far as I was concerned, my mom was the most beautiful woman in the world and all the others had cooties. No problem, so why create one when it doesn’t yet exist? Fast forward a couple years to when I would have noticed, you could get rid of the dancers, but then what would you do about movie stars? Or just the short skirts and cleavage visible on any summer day in Boston? Maybe that’s where the parenting comes in, not in banning what can’t be banned, but guidance. Or would you rather the child learn from a bunch of friends who are poor role models?

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    • Thanks, Al, for your comment. Thoughtful and rational. I could make this short and say I am glad to hear you – as you say – don’t like the dancers, (maybe not the dancers themselves who, in fact, could be and are likely to be fine people) or at least the spectacle of this sort of over-the-top, provocative dancing at a basketball game. And I also can’t pretend to know the causes of Ray Rice’s (and others) violence toward women. You are right, could be a host of reasons that contribute for him and others. But some of what you say warrants some pushback.

      When I watch a basketball game, I spend no time thinking about a players’ skin color. Zero. I am certain the same holds true for my daughter. Just like when we go to the corner store near our house or to the pharmacy or the post office or we walk down our streets. Kind, friendly, polite people with kind faces; some black, some white; most a mixture of something in between. I have no idea what the point of that was for you. Yes, they all make way too much money just as television personalities and movie stars and hedge fund managers and CEOs of American companies do. I only have time for so many blogs.

      Many sports fans are over-the-top. I agree. Will she be influenced by that? Don’t know, but I doubt it. Even still, does that behavior somehow demean a class of people? Anything approaching half the population?

      Not sure what basketball you’ve been watching, but the sort of behavior you reference – stare downs and look-at-me displays – are pretty uncommon in pro basketball these days. (Meta World Peace has moved on, right?) You could watch the Spurs and the Bulls and the Mavs and Cetics for a month and see none of that. Even so, it’s easy to see that behavior like that is not accepted by most. The dancers however are sanctioned by the Celtics and foisted upon us for our entertainment. I think there is a huge difference.

      Lastly, you are right; images demeaning to women are everywhere and we can’t control them. Raising a child is a challenge and the parenting you mention is paramount. But part of the guidance that my wife and I will offer our kids is that people, all people – black basketball players, dancers, fans in the stands – all deserve respect and when we see disrespect, we should should speak up and seek ways to change it.

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      • Al said

        Steve – My mention of race was not about discrimination, but about wealth distribution. I think it’s a question that a child might ask, why black people are on the court playing, but so rarely among those who can afford a courtside seat?

        I love basketball but not without noticing the other stuff. The only reason I mentioned some of the potential negatives is to illustrate that everything is in the eye of the beholder. To us, it’s art, but to others, it’s a unbelievable waste of time watching people try to put a ball through a hoop when the resources could be spent elsewhere. Those naysayers have a point don’t they? After all, how many starving mouths could be fed from all the money spent at one game?

        It’s not coincidence that you wrote this article at a time when your daughter is turning 5 when faced with a decision on whether or not to bring her to the game, rather than any time before. As a father, it’s protecting her and protecting her innocence that matters, not so much the half of the population for whom you didn’t change diapers or watch their first steps. It’s also not coincidence that Dave was angered by reading it. We would feel differently if one of the dancers was a friend and it would likely impact our perception.

        Aren’t the basketball players themselves are as sexual as the dancers, perhaps more so? Aren’t they also on display for the physical aspects of their bodies and what those bodies can do? There are millions of fans who idolize them, including half the population, some of whom participate in the sexual escapades we only occasionally hear about when some scandal breaks. Are they also not dangerous to women or does that simply not matter to most people more than how many game winning shots they hit?

        So when you ask me what basketball I’ve been watching, my answer is as many aspects as I can, hopefully like a player who sees the entire floor. It’s a game that now has dancers, but unlike when Red Auerbach started coaching in the NBA, it also has non-white players.

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      • Al said

        For myself, I would prefer to focus on basketball without the dancers, the jumbotron showing uncoordinated fans loving the sight of themselves on the big screen, the t-shirt shooting cannons, the trampoline dunking mascot, the fireworks, Lebron’s chalk toss, and all music played during the game. But other people like the other stuff and it’s not like I can’t relate. At an earlier age, I was more distracted by the dancers than I’d like to admit, so who am I to criticize?

        So maybe I would explain to my daughter that sexuality, both good and bad is part of life and that it’s not all fairy tale, but that she gets to choose what she wants in her life. And speaking of fairy tales, I’d be wary of those princess dresses because it isn’t the dancers that she’s idolizing. Blue eyed blond cartoon characters with huge eyes and perfect waistlines who talk to animals and blast snow from their arms aren’t even real. What kind of message are they sending to our little girls who walk around everywhere with tiaras?

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  8. Michael said

    Honestly, I don’t get the debate. A dance squad can dance and not have the sexualization. I am a season ticket holder for the University of San Francisco basketball team. Their dance squad is entertaining and does not cross this line we are discussing here. I take my 8 year old son, I am glad the dancing is not over the top, one less thing to explain to my kid. I can focus on talking basketball instead.

    Dave, do your research before insulting people. Or better yet, come to a Never Too Late basketball camp and judge Steve’s coaching for yourself.

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