Lingerie Football: founder says it's good for St. Louis; former player offers warning

By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - On May 16, 2012, the Lingerie Football League announced it was awarding St. Louis an expansion franchise where scantily clad women would play tackle football at the Family Arena in St. Charles.

PHOTOS - Lingerie Football League

County officials insist it is not a done deal and they have concerns about reported lack of insurance on the players.

Kiera Massette has a unique perspective on the sport. She was one of the original players helping to launch the league in 2009. She played for the New York Majesty.

"There were a lot of times when you had to kind of step back and say is this really what I signed up for? Is this really what I want," said Massette.

Massette questions whether a venue called the Family Arena is really a good fit for the sport. But league founder and Chairman Mitchell Mortaza said the St. Charles Family Arena is a perfect venue.

We spoke to him from his headquarters in Las Vegas.

"The fact of the matter is a lot of people don't realize this that haven't been to games or haven't watched LFL games. You honestly can bring your kids. It is no different than going to a Saint Louis Blues game or a Rams game," said Mortaza. "You know, it's not a matter of what towns are conservative or what have you. Our main focus is it a great sports town? Is it a town that will resonate to the team and we feel that Saint Louis is by far one of the most under rated sports towns in the country and we are excited to be there."

Mortaza admits the players are not paid a dime because the LFL is an amateur league. In fact, players pay a $45 fee for the privilege to play.

"The prestige involved with the LFL is second to none. You are flown everywhere. You play at major arenas and stadiums. You are featured on national news," said Mortaza.

Players are asked to sign an accidental nudity clause and Massette explained, "That is the 'ooops clause.' There was a clause that said they (league) would not be held liable if accidentally something popped out," she explained.

Since the games are broadcast on MTV2, Mortaza says the nudity clause is an industry standard.

"Obviously the league and the network has to be protected in that instance because it is a live broadcast and you don't have the opportunity to edit it so legally you have to have that in your contracts," he said.

Massette says when she played they didn't offer health insurance and she suffered a career ending injury.

She says she wasn't the only one hurt.

"I have a team mate that was on the Baltimore team with me and the doctor told her if she gets one more concussion she will have permanent brain damage," Massette said.

"I don't know where you can find health insurance for $250.00 for six months of coverage with no deductible and coverage for up to $100,000 per incident. Like I said, that's better than my policy," said Mortaza.

Massette claims she endured verbal and written abuse.

At the start of the 2010 season, she received an email from the talent director saying," I want to make sure you show up to Training Camp in your best shape possible. We are taking the Players overall physique very seriously this Season."

Massette took a picture of how she looked at the time and responded "I hope you don't think I turned into a marshmallow."

The response from the league official was: "There were some images on Facebook I was sent that it looked like you needed some work on your midriff."

"It hurt. I'm 5'5" and 125 pounds you know? I'm by no means overweight for my height or anything," said Massette.

Mortaza is used to the criticism about the league being exploitive but he is the sport's biggest defender.

"Okay first and foremost, if it was such a tough atmosphere for the ladies to be in here, why are we retaining over 95 percent of the ladies every season? Especially in a league that you just pointed out where they're not compensated," he said.

As you can imagine, this topic has received a lot of attention. There are many supporters and passionate fans of this growing league. But John Bognar was so outraged he sent an angry letter to the St. Charles County Executive and a copy to NewsChannel 5.

He writes: "Are you out of your ever lovin' mind?! A lingerie football league?! Are you kidding? At the Family Arena? In SAINT Charles, MO.? Have you been drinking on the job? You evidently don't want support from the community. And just what kind of clientele do you think this will attract. Of course they'll be sober, church going, taxpaying, upright citizens who wouldn't think of driving drunk through our communities, pissing in public, harassing women, looking for prostitution...."

Massette thinks the sport is incredible, as are the women who play. She says they are top athletes who deserve to be well compensated. Her issue she says is with the league's management.

"I really think you gotta think about if you want your daughters playing, if you want your sisters, your niece, etc. being that it is run the way it is run, I think you really need to think twice about it," she said.

Commissioner Mortaza responded, "It is a unique experience and one that our women love and we certainly do not have a shortage of women that want to play in this league."

Even if the deal with the Family Arena falls through, Mortaza tells NewsChannel 5 there are other interested venues in the St. Louis market and the sport is coming to the Show Me state.

Open try-outs for the LFL are Sunday June 17th, at Vetta Sports Club Soccerdome. The address is 220 East Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63119.

The league's news release states, "The LFL strongly encourages prospective players to come prepared to participate in strength, speed and agility drills. Also, dress attire is athletic wear (sports bra and shorts) with sneakers or cleats, if on grass surface. In addition athletes are asked to bring a photo to leave behind and to arrive at least 45 minutes prior for registration."


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