Bringing football sexy back? Well, mostly

(Courtesy of the Chicago…)
April 16, 2013|By Ryan Smith | For RedEye

The Chicago Bliss are bringing a little less sexy back.

The women's football team—which kicks off its season Friday with a home game at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates—took a year off after the 2011 season and is returning to a league working to rebrand itself with a bit of deglamming.

Earlier this year, the LFL announced it had changed the first "L" in the name from Lingerie to Legends. In addition, the "sexy woman" logos were replaced and the league's tagline switched from "True Fantasy Football" to "Women of the Gridiron."

In doing so, the LFL hopes to be perceived as more than a skin-baring sideshow.

"This is the next step in the maturation of our now-global sport," LFL founder Mitchell Mortaza said in a statement. "While the Lingerie Football League name has drawn great media attention, allowing us to showcase the sport to millions, we have now reached a crossroad of gaining credibility as a sport or continuing to be viewed as a gimmick."

As part of the makeover, the teams also have ditched the Victoria's Secret-style uniforms in favor of something a bit more Dick's Sporting Goods.

The new uniforms still show plenty of skin—the players compare them to the halter tops worn by beach volleyball players—but they are missing the garter belts and lingerie details of the old outfits. The shoulder pads also have been beefed up to give the women more protection on the field.

For the Bliss, the hope is they'll be perceived as having more in common with Lance Briggs than Kate Upton.

"I think the changes make it a lot more acceptable and friendly; when you say the word 'lingerie,'the connotations are sex," said Bliss veteran Vejurnae Leal, 27, of Evanston. "Now we can talk about the fact we're great athletes because a lot of us were high school, college athletes. So now it's not just 'look at us half-naked,' it's 'come watch us play football.' "

Alli Alberts, 26, of Old Town, hopes the rebranding effort will attract more female spectators.

"The lingerie stuff didn't bother me, but I could see how some women would say 'this objectifies women,' " she said. "Maybe now there will be more little girls who can look up to us now as serious athletes and we will get a bigger female cheering section."

Bliss quarterback Heather Furr said she's more excited about alterations to the game's rules than her uniform.

The league will continue to play 7-on-7, full-contact tackle football, but it will loosen the restrictions on blitzing the quarterback. It also will drop the requirement for teams to run at least two rushes and two passes per four downs.

"It made things too predictable, too structured, and now we can play how we want," said Furr, 28, of Wrigleyville. "A lot of the girls are still learning the game and don't know the ins and outs of football very well, so it's nice they're trying to make it as close to the real game as possible."

Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.


SEASON OPENER

Bliss vs. Los Angeles

8 p.m. Friday

Sears Centre Arena, Hoffman Estates

Tickets: Visit lflus.com

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