Naked wrestlers defend modesty

May 14, 1999

Photographs of clothed female university cheerleaders and naked male wrestlers taken without their consent for sale as pornography have several major American universities looking for someone to sue.

In one case, male wrestlers from Northwestern and Indiana universities and the University of Pennsylvania were videotaped nude in a locker room and the tapes sold to consumers. In another, 72 photographs of clothed female cheerleaders from Syracuse University and Boston College were used to lure viewers inside a pornographic web site that charges a fee for access.

"Before you view shots of the girls getting undressed, take a moment to check them out in their sexy short skirts and their pompoms," the website text read beside a photograph of an unidentified Syracuse cheerleader. None of the cheerleaders was actually depicted nude anywhere on the site.

All the universities say they are looking into taking legal action. The grounds for such recourse is murky, however, with such invasions of privacy apparently not anticipated by the law.

New York state officials say they may press charges against the web site owner for using the cheerleaders' images without their consent, a misdemeanour. The women could also sue individually on these grounds.

Officials at Boston College, a Catholic university, have asked law enforcement officials to investigate and may sue the photographer, whose identity has yet to be determined.

Even though several of the students are clearly recognisable, the owner of the web address insists the women in the photographs were not real cheerleaders, but models wearing costumes. The pictures have been removed from the site.

Meanwhile, the wrestlers learned they were secretly videotaped while changing, showering and weighing in at a national tournament, and the images sold under the titles Between the Lockers, Gym Time and Straight off the Mat. The camera was hidden inside a mesh bag, and the producer remains unknown.

Several of the athletes say they have spoken to attorneys. University officials are also considering legal action. That will be difficult as there is no one to charge and there are no apparent laws under which the filmmaker could be prosecuted.

Obscenity laws in Illinois, where the tournament was held, prohibit videotaping anyone in a restroom without their consent, but may not apply to locker rooms. Security at athletic events at the affected schools has been increased.

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