BALTIMORE - As the Baltimore Ravens gear up to take on the San Francisco 49ers in this year’s Super Bowl, there is one team veteran who will not be making the trip to New Orleans.
Ravens cheerleader Courtney Lenz, 23, of Baltimore, Md., is a five-year veteran of the cheer squad, but she did not receive an invitation to attend the biggest game of her career.
Lenz said it was because she had announced her retirement and had gained 2 pounds.
Now fans have taken to the internet, launching an online petition to push the Ravens to let Lenz cheer at the Super Bowl.
“I wouldn’t even have reached out and let fans know if I didn’t think it was clearly wrong,” Lenz told ABCNews.com. “I’m just devastated by the whole situation. This was very unexpected… I didn’t even think there would be a chance of me not going with being a five-year veteran.”
The news came shortly after Lenz announced her planned retirement at the Ravens’ last home game
against the Colts.
Lenz began cheering for the Ravens when she was a freshman in college at 18. After she finished school and found a full time marketing job, she found it difficult to continue to fit cheering into her schedule and announced her retirement earlier this month.
During a weekly weigh-in last fall, it showed that she had gained a couple of pounds so she was "benched" and advised to go see a nutritionist and counselor at her own expense, Lenz said. She said the team told her she had a "rough year" and was disciplined because of her weight.
Although she retired at the end of the regular season, Lenz believes her time on the squad this year and as a veteran, entitles her to a spot on the field at the Super Bowl. She accuses the Ravens of not allowing her to cheer in retaliation for quitting.
“They’ve been really hard on me this year since I told them I was leaving,” Lenz said. She received an email last week with the names of the 32 cheerleaders who would join the team in New Orleans. “I was the only three-plus year veteran that [is] not going. I immediately thought it was a mistake.”
The Ravens say they had to choose a select number of the 60-member squad to cheer at the Super Bowl, and Lenz did not make the cut.
“As set by the NFL, we are permitted to bring 32 cheerleaders to the Super Bowl. Our selection process was based upon three criteria: seniority, performance ability and personal conduct throughout the season. As much as we would like to take the whole team, we are unable to do so, due to parameters set by the NFL,” spokeswoman Heather Harness, said in a statement to ABCNews.com.
Fans who learned that Lenz would not participate took the internet to complain.
Debbie Kammerer, 52, of Pasadena, Md. created an online petition that has already has surpassed 1,200 signatures. She is so angry, she says she is considering not attending the game herself.
The petition says:
"Courtney announced she was retiring during the last home game at the end of the season which didn’t go well with the director. She was told she didn’t put in as many appearance hours this season as she did the past 4 yrs while in college. 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 2 lb weight gain during a game earlier in the fall, which is a absurd, unhealthy and a complete inaccurate measurement of a woman’s “appearance” and size!
Courtney is beautiful & this organization that is supposedly out there to promote self esteem and healthy body image to millions of young girls and women nationwide has done a big injustice to Courtney & we are outraged! She deserves to be out on the field with her teammates, her family. "
“We’re just angry,” Kammerer said. “She was 57th among the hottest NFL cheerleaders this season. People want to burn their jerseys and don’t want to support the Ravens anymore. My heart isn’t even wanting to go. I could save $3,500. This is totally wrong.”
In addition to the petition, a Facebook page was created that has garnered more than 2,150 likes.
“Originally I would have loved to go to the Super Bowl, but at this point it looks like it’s not going to happen,” Lenz said. “I received an email on Sunday saying I need to turn in my uniform. I can’t say I didn’t expect it, but at the same time, they owe that to me.”