With the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships underway, many are wondering why cheerleaders are wearing masks when seated courtside while those around them aren’t — here’s why.
The NCAA is requiring all individuals immediately adjacent to the court to be masked. OutKick was made aware of the masking policy after publication — this story has been updated to reflect that.
“In an effort to protect Tier 1 individuals during tournament games, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brian Hainline, has indicated that all individuals immediately adjacent to the court, including the official scorer’s table, spirit squads, camera persons, courtside photographers, ball persons and media members seated on the first row of the media table, must be masked,” the policy obtained by OutKick reads.
While the NCAA COVID-19 guidance for the championships released earlier this month includes a code of conduct that outlines COVID-19 protocols for each championship — and indoor masking when individuals are not practicing or competing is encouraged but not enforced — all media must wear masks while teams are present in the media interview room.
NCAA’s guidance encourages indoor masking for all Tier 1 individuals — which is all individuals in the official travel party — when they are not practicing or playing games, eating or drinking or being in hotel rooms, it also states that each team may also implement protocols that are within local public health and CDC guidance.
The masking policy sent by email and obtained by OutKick also states that TV broadcasters, radio announcers and public-address announcers are not required to wear a mask while performing but should at all other times.
Cheerleaders have been seen wearing masks courtside, like the Notre Dame cheerleaders in the photo above or the Indiana cheerleader who dislodged the ball in this video, but most aren’t when engaging in their sport.
USA Cheer, the governing body for cheerleading, provides guidance on its website that recommends programs follow federal, state, and local guidelines — as well as those of the governing athletics/activities association. USA Cheer’s guidance says it does not recommend masks while cheering unless it is required by local guidance.
OutKick reached out to the NCAA for further clarification on the masking policy but did not hear back before publication.
This article was updated with the NCAA’s Masking Policy after publication.
Check back with OutKick for updates.
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