Spurs disbanding cheer squad for 'family friendly' act


Los Angeles (AFP)

The San Antonio Spurs have become the first team in the NBA to disband their all-female dance group, announcing plans to replace the squad with a "family-friendly" co-ed act, the franchise has confirmed.

The Spurs said a 35-member "hype team" featuring acrobatics, dance, stunts and tumbling would be selected and named later this year, replacing the team's Silver Dancers dancing group.

"We are excited to announce our new Spurs hype team," Spurs Sports & Entertainment Vice President Tammy Turner said in a statement.

"This team will further enhance the game-night experience for Spurs fans at the AT&T Center."

The statement said the new entertainment group would showcase a "diverse array of unique family-friendly talents."

No reasons were given for the disbanding of the Silver Dancers troupe, but local media reports cited "lack of fan interest" for the decision.

The move comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of all-female cheerleading and dancing acts in US professional sports in the era of the #MeToo movement.

Earlier this month, the Washington Redskins NFL team came under fire over the treatment of its cheerleaders.

A New York Times report citing several members of the 36-member Redskins cheerleaders unit said the women were made to pose topless or wear only body paint for a photo shoot in Costa Rica.

The women also complained that sponsors and luxury suite holders -- all men -- were given access to the photo shoots.

The Spurs move to replace their dancing team was greeted with dismay by Rosalyn Jones, who founded the troupe in 1991.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, Jones refuted suggestions that the Silver Dancers were not "family friendly."

"This is a very conservative market, and the team has always been very concerned about the look of the girls and things like that," Jones told the Post.

"But I'm telling you I've never seen and never heard anything derogatory. The girls are all professional women, they know the rules and standards and they know they're ambassadors for the Spurs. And they've done so much in the community ? camps, clinics, promotional activities. To take this away so suddenly, it's bothersome."

Members of the dancing team also reacted with shock following the move.

"I am truly heartbroken and at a loss for words for an organisation I held so dear to my heart," one dancer, Alexis Bonilla, wrote on Twitter. "This year is one I will never forget. The legacy we left will live on forever."

Another dancer, Alexis Flores, added: "I am trying to still process it right now. I'm just in total shock!".