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NT: Titans male cheerleaders out of a job; who'll hoist the flag?


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Titans male cheerleaders out of a job; who'll hoist the flag?



Staff Writer

The male cheerleaders who carried the 80-pound Tennessee Titans flag at every game and tossed the female cheerleaders in the air won't be doing it this fall.

The Titans and the Baltimore Ravens were the last two teams in the National Football League that still featured male cheerleaders, and now the Titans have decided to drop them because of liability concerns over the stunts.

On average, the male yell leaders were paid $200 for the entire season, but they said they did it for love of the game.

''It's going to be a shock to a lot of people when game day starts,'' said Carl Gillespie, 44, a yell leader and stunter for the squad. ''There's a huge amount of excitement watching stunters. It's just an adrenaline rush. A lot of that excitement will be lost.''

Since the Titans began playing at The Coliseum in 1999, they have had male and female cheerleaders. A year ago, the squad was made up of 34 females and nine males, including alternates.

This year, the cheerleaders had hoped that a few more would be a part of the squad, but the organization informed the yell leaders this week that they would no longer be needed.

''We are looking at doing something different to freshen up our game-day presentation,'' Titans Executive Vice President Don MacLachlan said. ''We always review what we do after each season, and I think the decision was that we would, instead of gymnastics, emphasize dance routines.''

Rod White, a captain on the squad the past five seasons, said, ''I've loved being out there for the team and cheering them on. I really feel tied to the team for being there for so long. But I wish the Titans best; I still love the team. I'm just disappointed I am not going to be down there cheering for them again.''

White, who was a cheerleader at Tennessee State University before joining the Titans for the 1999 season, said he believed the dynamics of the squad would change.

On game days, White said, the male cheerleaders not only helped with the stunts and got the crowd going, but they also assisted T-Rac, the team's mascot, and assisted in public relations.

White's wife, Latarsher, is a member of the cheerleading squad. He proposed to her on The Coliseum field during the Christmas night game against the Dallas Cowboys during the 2000 season.

There's a chance the number of female cheerleaders could be reduced, but the change isn't expected to be drastic.

''Personally, I think the more different kinds of people that you have on a team, it makes it better, when you have girls and guys coming from all these different backgrounds, girls from dance background and guy stunters and some former football players,'' said White, 30. ''You are no longer going to have those high-flying theatrics that I am assuming is part of the liability issue.''

Gillespie said he knew of only one stunt injury in five years — a twisted knee that required surgery.

''There's a level of liability in any kind of professional action that we do. You can get hurt playing football.''

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