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Once upon a time the Legends Football League was a renegade type of sports brand. Occasional fights went viral online. Furious coaches and players cursing out their enemies, without shame, and wardrobe malfunctions were a part of an explosive game that grew in skill year-by-year.
While the game was and is entertaining for those who actually invest time in it, the most both loved and despised part of the LFL was the uniform, prior to the 2018 season. Previously the uniform did evolve over the span of the league, but typically players played in very short shorts.
"I will tell you one con about the booty shorts, was that they were one size fits all," said former Chicago Bliss receiver AJ Johnson. "Even some of the women with the best figures on our team had trouble with them being too tight and cutting into places that were not flattering."
The league got heat from various media outlets and opponents, who saw the uniforms as sexist and degrading. However, we here at Winners Only are about to go in various directions. Thoughts and views vary from person-to-person. What one sees as degrading, someone else views as empowering. As much as today's society attempts to present itself as black and white, it is as grey as any time before.
After attending a few LFL games in person, it would be a lie to deny that many of the fans (both men and women) in attendance enjoyed looking at the women in their revealing uniforms. It can also be said that by the end of the game, those same fans were very impressed by the high level of athleticism and intensity that they witnessed on the field.
An argument by those who dislike the uniforms, often was, "Guys don't have to wear those types of uniforms, so why do the women?" People accused the league of, "forcing" these women to degrade themselves, as if they were slaves or weak minded individuals, who didn't have a choice in the matter.
Many of these same people, who didn't support the league that "forces" women to dress different, don't support leagues that "force" women to dress the same as men. Many women's football games, where the women play in full gear have stands that are next to empty.
So back to the gray world that we live in. These days body positivity is discussed by many. One of the most amazing players to watch was Lulu Jackson, formerly of the defunct Toledo Crush.
At 5-11 she was one of the taller players in the league, and her body was probably the curviest the LFL had ever seen. Along with that she was not just powerful, but fast.
As she caught the ball and broke free for touchdowns, you saw a body that historically has been lusted after behind closed doors, but ostracized in public, all of a sudden being cheered in an arena, by fans who now see that it's cool to be built the way you are, and not be afraid to show it, just as those who are traditionally accepted.
On the other side, Jackson felt that the uniforms were a bother, not because of politics, but simply because they were uncomfortable for her during the game. "They were too small," she said. "I hated them. Felt like I was wearing a thong."
Johnson, who has more of a traditional athletic build, felt empathy for the more curvy women. "If the shorts simply would have been the right size for the athlete wearing them, they would have been more comfortable and easier to play in."
Before the 2018 season, when Chicago Bliss running back, Javell Thompson, found out that the league was considering doing away with the short shorts, she told said, "I hope they do. Pants are a lot more comfortable." Once again the stance wasn't one of politics but one of comfort.
Chrissy Dash, who played for the Cleveland Crush, also discussed issues of protection with the uniforms of the past. "Our uniforms didn't have real protection. Girls came from that league with some serious injuries."
Los Angeles Temptation wide receiver Malissa Miles agrees. "Injuries are a real issue since the league doesn't provide medical insurance, and everything has to come out of our pocket," she said.
"We just like to be as comfortable and protected as possible on game days so we can play to our highest capabilities without any worry of injuries."
Injuries and comfort are important to an athlete, but modesty when it comes to sex appeal isn't as much. It may be politically correct to say that it is, but when you look through the history of sports physically attractive males and females have shown off their bodies well before the LFL and will be doing so after the league is long gone.
I attend college and pro track and field events all over North America, and it's no secret that some men's packages are easily visible in their very snug uniforms.
Some women choose to wear shorts at track meets that are just as revealing as the former shorts that the LFL players wore. How do I know that they are choosing the shorts? Some of their teammates choose to wear less revealing shorts.
Go to a women's gymnastics meet and you will see a bunch of skin. They could do the same routines with their legs covered, but the culture of the sport chooses to show the body.
Why do male pro boxers fight without shirts, but amateurs wear tank tops?
Why do many pro wrestlers perform in shorts that look like underwear, with no shirt and tons of baby oil in front of men, women and children on national TV?
It's no secret ESPN The Magazine, launched it's "The Body Issue" in 2009 to fight against the financial crisis of 2007-10, which caused the magazine's ad revenue to take a severe fall. After Serena Williams posed nude on the cover, it saved the magazine, and made money in record numbers.
Long-time player Tamar Fennell has competed in traditional football, and for the LFL, both internationally and domestically. She was a huge defender of the league's more revealing look. "I was more self-conscious in the pants than the briefs," she said. Yoga pants aren't for everyone, maybe high waist ones, if you're athletically built with narrow hips." She told us that the pants also aren't as aesthetically pleasing.
We live in a tense time, where it almost seems that you can't publicly appreciate or acknowledge the physical appeal of the human body. Meanwhile we consume media that feeds us nearly nude attractive people on movies, TV shows, magazines and social media platforms on a near non-stop basis.
The LFL wasn't wrong for its previous presentation of its players, when it comes to the pure look of the uniforms. It may have been wrong to not consider comfort or safety, but that's something every sport kind of picks up along the way. Remember long ago football players wore leather helmets.
To wrap this baby up, we'll salute the bold spirit of a league of women who someday may be more appreciated both aesthetically and for their talent as history usually grows the legend of those who weren't afraid to go against tradition.