Lingerie Football: So Sexy or Just Sexist? Female Players Say They Love the Game

PHOTO: Legends Football League
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With war paint smeared on their faces, football pads on their shoulders and garters dangling from their lace-trimmed shorts, the all-female football team known as The Chicago Bliss filed into their locker room at halftime. They were beating their Midwest rivals, the Green Bay Chill, but their coach was not at all pleased with how they were playing.

"Get your s--- together, that girl is kicking your f---ing ass," he yelled at one of the players.

Welcome to the Legends Football League, where ladies dressed in nothing but a bra, booty shorts and a hockey helmet play seven-on-seven football -- ground-stomping, body-bruising football.

In short, these ladies are no powder puffs -- but is the sport super sexy or just plain sexist?

With 12 all-female teams participating in two conferences, Eastern and Western, LFL promoters say this is the fastest growing pro-sports franchise in the country. The ladies fill arenas with all sorts of fans, drawing them in with shameless sex appeal and hoping they will stay to appreciate the athleticism.

"Nightline" spent time with The Chicago Bliss, whose head coach is Keith Hac. After 18 years coaching men in semi-pro football, Hac feels that the biggest compliment he can pay these ladies is to treat them just like the guys.

"You're letting the worst defense in the f---ing league stop you, the worst defense," he told them in the locker room at halftime. "You guys are much better than this. You're much better than this."

The LFL has a chorus of critics who accuse the league of objectifying women to sell tickets. But league commissioner Mitch Mortaza makes no apologies for the LFL's business model – sex sells.

"We just happen to have an entire league of Tom Brady's and David Beckham's and Maria Sharapova's," he said. "That's the business model. We're very upfront and honest about it, and I think to a degree, that's definitely helped in the marketing of the sport."

Most football players don't include tanning and manicures in their training routines, but these female footballers see it as just part of prepping for the next big game. While it may seem like somewhat of a spectacle, the teams take the sport very seriously, spending at least six hours a week practicing on the field, rehearsing and studying complicated plays.

"You know its women playing football with lingerie on, but at the same time we're serious. This is not just a costume," said Yashi Rice, a defensive tackle for the Bliss.

These women play in the League for no money. It's a second job for most. Rice, whose brother, Simeon Rice, played in the NFL for 12 years and even won a Super Bowl in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sells life insurance.

Chicago Bliss wide receiver Alli Alberts is a dentist. Ironically, her specialty is doling out brutal hits on the field and periodontics. And the injuries the women suffer on the field can be serious -- Alberts said she has suffered concussions, but she is most concerned about her right hand.

"If I break a finger on this right hand, I can't do any dentistry, and how am I going to make money," she said. "But I don't live my life that way. I don't live my life [as] 'oh I might get hurt so I shouldn't do it.'"

While on the four-hour drive to meet their Midwest rivals, the Green Bay Chill, the Chicago Bliss bus felt like a supercharged sorority house. The ladies joked about breaking up with their boyfriends before every season.

"Our coach says, for the next few months, Football is your boyfriend," said offensive line Dina Fagiano.

After years of playing in lingerie, it's clear these women are comfortable in their own skin -- wardrobe malfunctions on the field and all.

"I definitely had my top ripped open," said Bliss team captain and quarterback Heather Furr. "After I scored, you know… I gave the crowd a good shake."

"I got my under-bottoms ripped off last season," Rice said.

"Her whole tushy showed and they got it on camera," Fagiano said. "The crowd loved--"

"But I didn't love that," Rice quipped.

When they arrived in Green Bay, the locker room quickly turned into a beauty salon. On went the fake eyelashes, make-up and skimpy uniforms.

Minutes before game time, emotions ran high as the ladies started pumping each other up with chants and encouragement.

"Tonight I'm playing for my son," said Bliss running back Chrisdell Harris. "I'm playing from my heart. I'm playing for somebody to look at me love me for who I am."

As the Bliss faced off with the Chill, it appeared to be more of a performance than play, but the rough and tumble of the game is not for the faint of heart. During her first outing, Alberts was knocked out cold. She later said her family doesn't understand why she loves playing football so much and argues that she is putting her dentistry future in danger.

"And my answer is that, I can't not do it, I love it," Alberts said.

And although the League requires its players to have health insurance, the LFL doesn't pay for it. The women wear plastic helmets and shoulder pads in games but it is much less protective equipment than their male counterparts wear, which Mitch Mortaza defended.

"There's a reason why the NHL has far less concussion, sustained concussions in the NHL versus the NFL, because once you put them in a football helmet, often times it's used as a weapon. They tend to spear one another," Mortaza said. "These women are smart. If they felt in any way they weren't protected out there, that they didn't have the medical support off the field, they wouldn't come back."

The Chicago Bliss prevailed over the Green Bay Chill in that game, 27 to 18. While some may judge these women for their skimpy outfits and trash-talking ways, the athletes may just be the unlikely vanguard for the feminist mystique.

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