Richard Peachey’s Delegation speech against the “Lingerie Football League” before Abbotsford City Council, January 21, 2013

This presentation is a followup to the November 5th delegation of my wife, Gerda Peachey. I will be highlighting and supplementing her arguments, and also dealing with some of the mayor’s responses to her.

First of all, let’s note the widespread agreement that the “Lingerie Football League” is not a high-class act. When Oklahoma City mayor Nick Corbett announced his opposition to the LFL coming to his city, he reportedly said: “There are too many problems to list. There are so many that I don’t want to gravitate to just one.” [New York Daily News, Nov. 12, 2010 <http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/oklahoma-city-mayor-mick-cornett-won-support-lingerie-football-league-expansion-city-article-1.455942>]

Some of those “problems” would be:

  • the “accidental nudity” clause in the LFL’s player contract;
  • the skanky costumes;
  • the LFL prohibition against wearing anything under those skanky costumes;
  • the inadequate protection offered by non-standard helmets and shoulder pads;
  • the fact that players have to look after their own medical insurance;
  • the mass walkout by members of Canada’s first LFL team, the Toronto Triumph, including the majority of the 26 players;
  • and the fact that not only do the players not get paid, but they themselves have to pay $45.00 per season in order to play.

League owner Mitchell Mortaza stated: “We will create an environment and culture that will cater to only those who love the game, while weeding out those doing it for a paycheque. Thus, moving forward, the LFL will no longer be compensating players.” [March 18, 2011 letter, cited in Toronto Star, Oct. 28, 2011 <http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1078107–lingerie-football-touchdown-or-fumble>]

Curiously, the contract between Global Spectrum and the LFL specifies that the AESC will be used for “professional indoor football games.” [page 1] Ha! The LFL is certainly not professional in the classic sense of people being paid for their skills: Mortaza himself employed the term “amateur status” as he was taking away their pay. [Toronto Star, Oct. 28, 2011 <http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1078107–lingerie-football-touchdown-or-fumble>]

But they’re not “professional” in any other sense either. Our own Councillor MacGregor, an experienced football coach, was quoted in the local paper: ” ‘Let me tell you what I said to my colleagues: It isn’t good football.‘ He said the reason people go to watch lingerie football is not about the quality of the game.” [Abbotsford News, Feb. 13, 2012 <http://www.abbynews.com/news/139232018.html>

And Mortaza himself — when all those Toronto Triumph players resigned over concerns about “shoddy” equipment and lack of proper coaching, Mortaza retorted: “Most of these women have never touched a football prior.” [Toronto Star, Oct. 23, 2011 <http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1074763–20-leave-toronto-lingerie-football-team-in-dispute-over-safety-coaching>]

Well, so much for that Global Spectrum-LFL contract clause about playing “professional” football! How ironic! The LFL is not professional in any way!

Now, it will not be surprising that a social conservative, a Christian like myself, would oppose the LFL, for biblical reasons relating to sexual morality, among other concerns. Similarly, no one is surprised by the statement by Councillor Gibson in the Vancouver Sun, when he said, “I believe that a number of our residents will find this form of entertainment objectionable and demeaning to women.” [Vancouver Sun, Feb. 10, 2012 <http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=ec6a3a3f-b637-4c20-8463-e5f08984888f&sponsor=>]

But the opposition to, and disdain for, the LFL is much more widespread than just among right-wing religious people. Australian Sport Minister Kate Lundy called the LFL a “cheap, degrading perv.” American feminist Courtney Martin wrote, “This is objectification at its most pernicious — give women an opportunity to participate in a sport that they haven’t had the chance to do for pay and publicly previously, but only let them do it if they are stereotypically pretty and willing to do it in their underwear.”  Dr. Michelle Smith at Melbourne University wrote: “The LFL is damaging to all women in addition to making a mockery of women’s sport.” [National Times (Australia), June 6, 2012 <http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/frills-and-spills-of-lingerie-football-tackle-all-women-hard-20120605-1zu5y.html>]

Lily Munroe, the Australian woman who started a massive petition against the LFL, wrote: “Unlike male US NFL players, limited safety equipment is worn to ensure maximum exposure of the women’s bodies. Mortaza has repeatedly emphasised injuries experienced by female players when promoting the ‘sport.’ The LFL has been careful to design their so-called ‘safety equipment’ around the premise of maximum body exposure. . . . No Australian sportsman would ever accept these conditions. No Australian sportswoman should have to either.” <http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-lingerie-football-league-in-australia>

Ontario sports writer Andrew Bucholtz, of Yahoo! Sports Canada, had this to say: “In every other football league, officials are doing everything they can to lower the risk of concussions. In the LFL, they’re a selling point. That’s just another reason why attempts to market this as wholesome, sporting entertainment are ludicrous.” <http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/cfl-55-yard-line/lfl-expansion-abbotsford-suggests-no-one-learned-toronto-000500904.html>

Now, just this past Tuesday, an Abbotsford News article described how the LFL is going to make some changes: no more garters and lace, different shoulder pads, and removal of the word “Lingerie” from their name. But in the words of one local player, “it might be hard for the average person to notice a difference.” So those changes may be merely superficial; it remains to be seen what will really happen. [<http://www.abbynews.com/news/186236981.html>]

Our own mayor, who is no religious fundamentalist, recognizes that the LFL is a low-class act. On November 5th, Mayor Banman stated: “I don’t care for it. I think it’s sleazy. I think it’s in poor taste.” Well, I looked up the word “sleazy” in several web dictionaries, and here’s what that word means:

Those, Mayor Banman, are dictionary meanings of the word you yourself used to describe this LFL.

Now, Abbotsford wants to be known as a “city of character,” and if you go to the “Abbotsford: City of Character” website, you find a video of our mayor saying these words: “Basically we want everyone, especially our young, our children, to understand what character is.” And one of the six key terms involved in the “character” concept is “Respect.” And in the video, our mayor says: “You treat people with respect, and you take responsibility for the city that you live in, and you serve.”

Mayor and council, I’m asking you to take responsibility for the city you live in. Do not simply hand over that responsibility to an American corporation named Global Spectrum. Please stop allowing things into our public buildings that you know are dishonorable, base, vulgar, raunchy, sordid, disreputable, and marked by low character — just because you need the money. Please show courage — another “character” quality. Teach our children to respect women, not to objectify them.

Gerda recently asked a City official this question, “Have you/Global Spectrum agreed to further use of the AESC for future ‘football’ games?” And Jason Blumenfeld’s answer, in an email sent to Mark Taylor, was this: “Global Spectrum would love to have them back if they wish to return.” Mayor and council, Global Spectrum is your agent. Their contract with the LFL makes that clear. They are your agent, representing you. Do you really agree with them that you would “love” to have the LFL back — this organization whose events you acknowledge to be sleazy, dishonorable, base, vulgar, raunchy, sordid, and disreputable?

If you’re not willing to make a clear statement of your disagreement with Jason Blumenfeld, then by your silence you are supporting what he said. Is that really what you want to teach the children of this city? You can’t just take a “hands off” attitude toward Global Spectrum: they are not an “arm’s length” independent entity; they are your agent.

In actual fact, the children may have a lot to teach you council members. I was very impressed this past Friday when I saw the Province newspaper’s front-page report of those Coquitlam high school students who are protesting against a strip club in New Westminster. They’ve put together a petition to pull the club’s business licence, citing as their main concern the objectification of women. The Province article featured a Grade 12 male student — an individual who would be one of Mitchell Mortaza’s prime targets as he tries to market his sleazy entertainment to “young college men.” [National Times (Australia), June 6, 2012 <http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/frills-and-spills-of-lingerie-football-tackle-all-women-hard-20120605-1zu5y.html>]

But it seems there are some young men who have more respect for their female peers than Mortaza might expect, and I would suggest that such young people serve as an example to this council.

If you truly believe the LFL is sleazy, then you need to require Global Spectrum to honour their contract with the City. That contract specifies: “Global Spectrum shall not use or permit the Facility or any part thereof to be used for: . . . (b) any dangerous, noxious or offensive trade or business, or any other use which would tend to lower the character of the Facility, or any part thereof. ” [7.1.2]

Mayor Banman, I want to now address the arguments you made to Gerda on November 5th, about why you and the council can’t or won’t take action on this issue.

First of all, you referred several times to the Supreme Court of Canada, as if that body would somehow prevent you from taking action on the LFL. I emailed you more than two weeks ago to ask exactly what you had in mind, but you never answered my question. There was the Labaye case of 2005, but that had to do with “criminal indecency,” not “common decency,” and it concerned a private building, not a public municipal facility. I have already documented this in detail for council members.

Secondly, Mayor Banman, you mentioned some other events, like the Cirque du Soleil, that had relatively minor skanky aspects to them. That doesn’t really compare with the LFL, whose entire marketing plan is tied up in the sleazy objectification of female bodies under the guise of ‘sport.’

Thirdly, you talked about high-heeled shoes and said they were harmful and degrading, and rhetorically asked whether you should shut down all the shoe stores. The simple answer to that is that you have no authority to regulate or shut down shoe stores, but you, the Council, do have authority to regulate what happens in City-owned facilities, and you have specifically legislated authority, under BC’s Community Charter, to prohibit athletic contests, exhibitions, performances of any kind, as well as noxious and offensive business activities.

The Langley Events Centre turned down the LFL, and they did it decisively. Jared Harman, director of business development for the Langley Events Centre, told the Langley Advance: “It was a quick conversation. It’s not something we feel is a good fit for the facility at this time.” By the way, I emailed Mr. Harman and he has confirmed for me the accuracy of that newspaper account. <http://www.langleyadvance.com/Semi+nude+ladies+playing+ball/6079770/story.html>

Furthermore, Rogers Arena in Vancouver also turned down the LFL. And, for Councillor Loewen’s information, neither of those facilities got sued.

When I was in my early twenties, as a young male, and an atheist to boot, I would not have objected to something like the LFL. Nor did I object when one of my friends talked about women as if they were “fresh meat.” But now I’m older, more civilized, and times are different. That sort of attitude should never have been acceptable, and it certainly should not be considered acceptable now. Just because there are some young men who might seem to “like” a sleazy event, that does not mean it should be provided to them, particularly not in a municipal facility. Please, take responsibility for this city.

In conclusion, I ask you for three things:

(1) Stop renting City-owned facilities to the LFL or anything like them.

(2) Give improved guidance to Global Spectrum, and Tradex as well, and don’t make money, or possible lawsuits, your only consideration.

(3) Develop a written policy on which council will actually vote, formally, in contrast to the informal discussion you had with the former city manager which essentially allowed Frank Pizzuto to decide for himself how to guide Jason Blumenfeld.

Thank you for your time.

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