St. John’s Cheer Protests Lack of Recognition on National Women and Girls in Sports Day

The University’s cheer and dance teams, which together are a nationally-ranked spirit program, were omitted by the University’s Athletic Department, leading to the Cheer squad’s decision to protest.

The St. John’s Cheer team stood in unison during one of their scheduled performances.
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s University Athletics Department did not recognize two female-dominant teams on National Women and Girls in Sports Day, held Feb. 1. The University’s Cheer and Dance teams performed during the Men’s Basketball game against Seton Hall that same day, leading the Cheer squad to protest by writing “WE ARE WOMEN IN SPORTS” on their t-shirts and refusing to perform one of their normally-scheduled routines. 

The Cheer and Dance teams were not recognized by the Athletic Department’s main Instagram page, Red Storm Sports, when nine women’s sports programs were posted.

“St. John’s Athletics participated in the National Girls & Women in Sports Day celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 1. The department recognized its female student-athletes and athletic teams with a social media post, along with an all-inclusive, in-game video board message and public address announcement to honor female athletes,” said University spokesperson Brian Browne in a statement to The Torch. 

“There was an inadvertent photo omission of the University’s Dance and Cheerleading teams in the social media post,” Browne said. “St. John’s University and the Department of Athletics value the dedicated contributions to the University made by all students and are committed to celebrating their achievements.”

According to the Athletics Department’s website, the teams are considered spirit squads, who perform at men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball games. The last update for the Dance team’s page was made after the team won a national Division One hip-hop title in 2020, while the Cheer team’s page was last updated in 2018. 

The St. John’s Dance team is one of few teams to have placed and ranked nationally consistently over the past five years. The Dance team competed last month at the Universal Dance Association (UDA) Nationals in Orlando, Fla., placing second overall in Division I hip-hop and ninth overall in Division I jazz.

The cheer and dance teams united for the first time last month to compete in the game day category as a spirit program, earning second overall and fell only 0.2 points short of a national victory.   

During the Men’s Basketball game against Seton Hall on the day of the incident, the Cheer team wrote on the back of their shirts “WE ARE WOMEN AND SPORTS” and stood in a line together during one of the final media timeouts, linking arms. They stood in solidarity while showing the back of their shirts to the crowd in a moment of silence.

“We are ATHLETES too and deserve recognition for our GRIND,” said senior cheer captain Jaslyn Laguna on Instagram

“[Cheerleading] goes far beyond standing on [the] sidelines and cheering for other people. Everything we do, we do for ourselves. The passion each individual has for this sport should not go unnoticed. When given less, we strive for more. We deserve recognition just the same as every other ATHLETE,” said second-year cheerleader Alison McCann via Instagram

Following the incident, the University says there has been “ongoing and productive dialogue” between the Cheer team and the Athletics Department. Additionally, Browne said several administrators from the Athletics Department, its social media team and athletics director Mike Cragg have communicated with the team. 

“To be clear, after the inadvertent omission of cheer and dance from a social media post on Wednesday, the Athletics Department has apologized and continues to champion the efforts of all of our student-athletes,” said Carolyn Renda, the head coach of the St. John’s Cheer team, in a statement to The Torch. “We are grateful to be part of a Division I athletics program that acknowledges our hard work and wants to be part of the positive change to the sport of cheerleading.”