Jan. 31, 2013 at 10:03 AM ET
While the celebrated career of star linebacker Ray Lewis is coming to an end with plenty of fanfare, there is one retiring veteran of the Baltimore Ravens organization who will not be on the sideline for Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Courtney Lenz, 23, a five-year member of the Ravens’ cheerleading squad, has not been invited to New Orleans to participate in the Super Bowl for what she believes is retaliation for a minor weight gain during the season. By NFL rule, the Ravens had to choose 32 members of their 60-member cheerleading team to cheer at the Super Bowl, and Lenz was the only veteran of three or more years who did not make the cut. Her supporters have created a Facebook page and an online petition requesting that she be reinstated, the latter of which had received more than 18,000 signatures by Thursday morning.
“(The Ravens) said that I had quote-unquote ‘a rough year,’’’ Lenz told Access Hollywood Wednesday night. “I’d been benched earlier in the season for a little bit of a weight gain. We do get weighed every week during the season, and you can’t fluctuate at all. I gained, I think it was 1.8 pounds.”
She said she was benched for weighing 125.4 pounds after weighing 124 for most of the season and that the organization wanted her to get down to 120 pounds. Lenz, who announced she was retiring at Baltimore’s final home game in the regular season, was not given a particular reason for why she was not included in the group that will cheer at the Super Bowl.
“They didn’t specifically say that (I was disqualified for weight gain), but when it comes down to it, that’s the only disciplinary action I had during the year,'' she said. "I got benched because of my weight, and they said that was the reason. Anybody that had disciplinary action taken during the season was automatically disqualified. However, there are some girls on the team that were also benched for their weight and are going.
“They just aren’t consistent and it isn’t fair, and that’s why I brought this to the attention of the fans because what they’re doing isn’t right.”
“Our selection process was based upon three criteria: seniority, performance ability and personal conduct throughout the season,'' Ravens spokeswoman Heather Harness said in a statement. "As much as we would like to take the whole team, we are unable to do so, due to parameters set by the NFL.’’
The online petition, created by Ravens fan Debbie Kammerer, 52, of Pasadena, Md., also alleges that Lenz was denied for failing to make enough public appearances for the organization in addition to her weight gain.
“She was told she didn't put in as many appearance hours this season as she did the past 4 yrs while in college,’’ Kammerer wrote in the petition. “This season she earned her B.S. degree and got a full time job... Bad call. They also stated she struggled with weight on occasion & she had been benched for a 2 lb weight gain during a game earlier in the fall, which is absurd, unhealthy and a complete inaccurate measurement of a woman's ‘appearance’ and size!”
Lenz started her cheering career for the Ravens as an 18-year-old college student, but decided to retire after this season because of the demands of trying to juggle her full-time job in marketing with her cheerleading obligations.