tampabay.com

Cheerleaders serve cheesecake

The Buccaneers and the NFL say they aren't getting any complaints about the team's swimsuit calendar.

By BILL VARIAN
Published December 30, 2004


TAMPA - Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders once were accused of showing too little skin.

Only a decade ago, a Bucs cheerleader claimed she was booted from the squad for posing partially nude on a magazine cover.

Now meet Kayla, a wind-blown blond, bracing against a red door, her mesh top struggling to contain her bounty.

Kayla is the cover girl on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders 2005 Swimsuit Calendar, which promises "12 STEAMY MONTHS" of pro football's most beautiful women.

There's no longer anything bashful about Tampa's hometown cheerleaders.

Maybe it was inevitable.

Last year, football fans witnessed Janet Jackson's breast, exposed briefly during her televised halftime performance at the Super Bowl. Then came Nicollette Sheridan dropping her towel in front of Eagles receiver Terrell Owens in a commercial for the show Desperate Housewives, aired as the lead-in to a Monday Night Football game.

The episodes sparked rounds of self-criticism by the National Football League but hardly rendered the Bucs calendar prudish.

Here's Jeni, Miss April, caught in mid-wardrobe malfunction. And Tara, June's entry, who poses seductively against a piece of driftwood.

Scandalous.

Or maybe not.

"I'm not aware that we've received any complaints," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

"We haven't gotten any complaints," echoed Bucs spokesman Jeff Kamis.

Even former Tampa City Council member Helen Chavez, who once waged a war against shirtless men at Bucs games, takes news of near-topless women in stride.

She has seen the promotions for the calendar on television.

"It's just reflecting society as it is today, when you consider the vulgarity people use every day," she said. "I think the cheerleaders are probably mild by comparison."

Hillsborough Commissioner Jim Norman, a huge Bucs fan, mustered a little disapproval.

He hadn't seen the calendar but heard it likened it to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

"I think the Bucs are trying to create a class organization," Norman said, noting that the team "should be selling football games, not this."

Hillsborough High School football coach Earl Garcia recalls the tempest stirred when the Dallas cheerleaders debuted some 30 years ago. He doubts the calendar would faze him.

"I'm a car guy," Garcia said. "I probably get five or six magazines each month related to cars. There's as much cheesecake in the car magazines as in adult magazines."

For years, the Bucs have promoted their cheerleaders as the wholesome, girl-next-door types. The 28-member squad includes a speech pathologist, a dentist and college students, among others. The women represent the Bucs at charity functions and other community events.

And they root for the team without pay.

They also didn't get paid for posing for the calendar, which retails for about $15 at Bucs games and stores such as Buccaneer Heaven.

Now that, finally, is enough to rile a feminist, one Louise Thompson, who has championed women's causes around the Tampa Bay area for years.

The women don't get paid? Thompson clucks, though mildly.

"They shouldn't, as we used to say, give it away."

Times new researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.