The UF cheerleaders have been grounded.
Cheerleaders and supporters took to Twitter on Friday, saying the University Athletic Association’s marketing department had banned them from all tumbling and stunts at practices, events and games.
The decision comes after an Orlando Magic cheerleader suffered three vertebrae fractures and a broken rib after falling during a stunt at the New York Knicks game Tuesday.
Martin Salamone, assistant athletics director for the UAA marketing and promotions department, declined to comment on the situation. According to a current UF cheerleader, the UAA instructed team members not to speak with the press about the ban.
“We know what we do is risky and that there is a ‘one in a million chance we might get hurt,’ but that’s why we practice,” senior squad member Morgan Palmer tweeted as @MorganLPalmer. She ended the tweet with the hashtag #UngroundUFCheer.
In another tweet, the telecommunication major wrote, “This is unreal. This is unreal. This is not happening. This did not just happen.“
The decision was made just about 24 hours before Senior Day, the last opportunity for the fourth-year members to officially stunt in the Swamp.
“Can’t believe I can’t tumble out the team for my last home game,” tweeted @TarinMoses, UF recreation senior and team captain Tarin Moses. Jason Merslich, a 27-year-old former Gators cheerleader, former team coach and still-involved volunteer said the ban was “sort of a slap in the face.”
“We do everything for them,” he said. “The only time we don’t have anything to do is summer, and we spend it practicing.”
Merslich said a member of the UAA marketing department told members of the Orange team about the ban just an hour before Friday’s volleyball game against Louisiana State University.
The cheerleaders had to tell the Blue team members themselves.
At Friday’s game, Merslich said, team members felt “weird” and “silly.” They stood on the sidelines cheering on their team, their feet on the floor. The situation was similar at Saturday’s football game.
“During one of the timeouts, instead of doing stunts or lifts, they all just clapped and stood around,” said 19-year-old aerospace engineering sophomore Kyle Krieter. “That’s when me and all the guys I was with kind of noticed. They danced a little, too, but that was about it.”
Merslich said safety is the UF coaches’ first priority and that they adhere to American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators guidelines.
“The coaches are very serious about it,” he said. “When people get hurt, it’s because they’re not following these guidelines. We never do things at a game that we haven’t perfected and practiced.”