The imminent invasion of the Lingerie Football League took another interesting twist this week, when it was revealed that Toronto mayor Rob Ford's niece Krista will be among those trying out for the new Toronto team this Saturday. (The Toronto team is set to play in the American LFL this year, with four to five other Canadian teams expected to come into existence and form a Canadian LFL in 2012). Here's what Krista Ford told the Toronto Star about why she made the decision:
"I like crashing into people," the blond, built linebacker said with a laugh Wednesday after word leaked of her intention to try out Saturday for the new Toronto Triumph franchise.
The fact that players wear bras and panties for a mostly male audience, and that she's part of a famous family, isn't fazing the football-mad Humber business management student.
"I play beach volleyball in a bikini and kick a soccer ball in a bikini - that (it would be a problem) never crossed my mind," said Krista, an MVP two years running on Richview Collegiate's flag football team who trained with guys "because I was way stronger than the girls."
"If I decide to do something, I put my mind to it and I get it done. No question."
While the LFL sends all the wrong messages and doesn't pay players for parading in front of ogling audiences (despite the league being "highly profitable") , Krista Ford's certainly entitled to try out for the Triumph if she wants. However, she should keep in mind that this isn't a league that's primarily focused on football skill, but rather one where the physical attractiveness of the players is a paramount concern. League founder and chairman Mitchell S. Mortaza told the Star that Ford (pictured above right in a photo from her Facebook page) won't get special consideration because of her connections, which is good, but added, "If she's a good-looking girl and she's athletic, she'll have a great shot," which is bad.
Of course, it's not like this is a new concept from Mortaza and the LFL. The Broward Palm Beach NewTimes published an impressive seven-page exposé of the league's shady side by Michael J. Mooney last year (and that was back when LFL players were still getting at least marginal pay). That piece emphasizes that the football part is very secondary to the lingerie part, with many players chosen specifically for their looks and then pushed to show off those looks in a variety of sketchy modeling endeavours as well as the games. Of course, given the minimal attention given to pads and uniforms, there are plenty of injuries, but that's just fine for the league, as their players appear to be seen as rather expendable. One of the most frightening parts of that piece reveals that players are in it until the league wants them gone:
In the first season, the 20-woman Caliente roster has seen high turnover. The men who run the team regularly bring in new, beautiful women to try out. "If the girl is good," says [Nicole] Daddona, "they'll find a reason to cut someone."
Some players get injured; at the table, Daddona, a defensive end, displays a five-inch strawberry on her abdomen but says it won't keep her out of a game. Other players get fired. The players are warned against saying anything bad about the team or league. And they can't quit. "If you stop playing, you owe them money," Daddona says. It's true. Each player signs a thick contract that includes a $5,000 "termination fine," a $500 fine for wearing "additional garments under wardrobe" without written permission from the league, and a clause noting that the player has no objection to "accidental nudity."
Given that, maybe it's not particularly surprising that Mortaza doesn't appear to have the cleanest background or the highest degree of respect for women. His record includes arrests for drunk driving and public intoxication, and The Smoking Gun dug up not only a threatened lawsuit by the LFL against a group of former players (who apparently had the temerity to inquire about health coverage and wages), but also an e-mail to a player who complained about disorganized practices. "Let me give you a little advice and this goes for any other player creating unnecessary, drama. Simply SHUT UP and play football," Mortaza wrote, adding that he wished the woman stopped attending practices "so we have reason to terminate you and assess the termination fine." It's also interesting that Mortaza appeared on the TV show Blind Date apparently about 10 years ago, and didn't exactly come off as a Prince Charming type:
For those who can't make it through almost 10 minutes of Blind Date, Mooney provides a list of highlights:
Notice the neon tan that glares under the high-powered lights and the shirt unbuttoned to his diaphragm. He said his nickname was "Razor" and his biggest turn-on was "toe rings." He called himself "the king of one-night stands" and told the camera, "I'm not out there lookin' for nuns." He showed up for his date wearing a black tank top, a shell necklace, a thumb ring, and a pair of designer sunglasses he didn't remove all night -- even inside the candlelit restaurant.
While wearing sunglasses at night is an established Canadian tradition, the "king of one-night stands" sounds like a tagline more appropriate for a Jersey Shore character. Still, if Krista Ford wants to play football in underwear to help Mortaza rake in some more money, that's her decision. It's notable that her father, city councillor Doug Ford, told the Star he wasn't all that enthused about the idea, though:
Doug Ford said his first reaction was: "Oh boy - I knew it was trouble." His family uses the "jury system" and it was "five against one," with his wife and four daughters saying there is no harm in it.
"As a dad you can say ‘No,' and - she's about to turn 20 - she can go and do it anyway, or you can support them in whatever they do, and that's what I'm doing."
That's not necessarily a bad move, as people have to make their own decisions and learn from them. Still, it's encouraging that Doug Ford at least has some concerns about the league. Those are concerns that apparently aren't shared by his brother, Rob, though, according to The Toronto Sun:
"The mayor certainly supports his niece in any endeavour," said Ford spokesman Adrienne Batra. "She's very athletic ... and this is something that interests her, so he wishes her the best."
The mayor is meeting with LFL officials on Monday to discuss the league's business plans.
It's unfortunate that Rob Ford is already apparently on side with this, as municipal officials have a notable amount of power to stop things like the LFL. The league gave up on expansion to Oklahoma City after Mayor Mick Cornett came out strongly against the idea (one of the few franchises Oklahoma City hasn't tried to acquire). That led to Mortaza branding the city as "North Korea", but it did keep the team out.
Even if Ford doesn't want to keep the LFL out entirely, there are other moves he and city council could make to limit the league's impact. It's notable that LFL games (scheduled to be held at the city-owned Ricoh Coliseum, where the AHL's Toronto Marlies play) would certainly appear to meet the city's bylaws' definition of an adult entertainment parlour, namely "any premises or part thereof in which is provided services appealing to or designed to appeal to erotic or sexual appetites or inclinations." Those services are further defined as "services of which a principal feature or characteristic is the nudity or partial nudity of any person," which would certainly appear to apply to the Lingerie Football League (you can see the scanty uniforms involved in the picture at right, taken at the 2008 Lingerie Bowl). Designating Ricoh as an adult entertainment parlour for LFL games would require the league to go through a specific licensing process, and it wouldn't be a sure thing that it would get it. Still, that probably isn't going to happen with Krista Ford trying out for the team.
It's worth noting that this isn't the Ford clan's first venture into football. Rob's a high school coach and Doug's a noted NFL fan, and both teamed up to make rather nutty statements about how the city needs an NFL team to be "world-class" (because NFL teams put Jacksonville, Buffalo and North Haverbrook on the world-class map, after all). The NFL's annual incursions into Canada aren't necessarily something that will lead to a team, but it's notable that the Fords have shown far more interest in a team they don't have than in the professional football franchise already in town. With the LFL, it appears they've found yet another league to support.
Krista Ford's certainly welcome to try out for the Triumph, and her father and uncle can support her if they like, but you have to wonder if they'd maintain that support if they looked into the LFL a little more. From this perspective, the league appears rather like an onion rotting from the inside out. It looks nice on the surface, but every time you peel back one layer, there's a more disturbing one underneath.