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    Beauty and brawn: Stars of 'world's sexiest sport' out to break all stereotypes

    Apr 30, 2013
    League of Legends stars Angela Rypien, Liz Gorman and Natalie Jahnke paid the country a visit this week to promote the gridiron full-contact, tackle football sport with a twist. Jerome Ascano

    PICTURE this: a bunch of fit and gorgeous women tackling each other wearing nothing but lingerie and a few protective gear.

    Now that’s truly a sight to behold.

    Fantasy turns into reality as the Legends Football League (LFL), a 7-on-7 American football tournament for women, can now be seen on Philippine television.

    Now on its fourth year, the LFL is dubbed as the world’s sexiest sport and is now considered the fastest growing sports league in the US by NBC Sports.

    Liz Gorman, Angela Rypien, and Natalie Jahnke, three of its top stars, paid the country a visit this week to promote the gridiron full-contact, tackle football sport with a twist.

    Now, don’t let their looks fool you. They may be on the field to proudly show off some skin, but they are also out to prove they have what it takes to perform in a sport that has long been dominated by men.

    “It’s a stereotype, but it’s on us for women to let loose and be like ‘Hey, we can get down and dirty’ and we can do the things that men do,” said Gorman, the 5-foot-6, 125-pound blonde bombshell, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and an All-Fantasy Team member, who plays wide receiver, running back, and safety for the defending champion Los Angeles Temptation.

    For Jahnke, the 5-foot-10, 128-pound teammate of Gorman, the sport serves as an outlet where she can legally let her anger out.

    “It’s an outlet to allow me to express my aggression,” the 23-year-old center/outside linebacker said. “If I wasn’t playing football, I’d probably be boxing or doing jiu jitsu or some kind of contact sport that would just be as dangerous. But football is a lot more fun and you get to do it with a group of girls that are exactly like you.”

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    “I’ve always been an entertainer, always somebody who would crack jokes and sing and dance. I come from that background,” Jahnke added. “Also I’m an athlete, so joining this league seemed like the perfect fit because first and foremost we’re athletes, it’s also entertainment and it goes hand in hand.”

    “We have the best of both worlds,” Rypien, the 5-foot-11, 145-pound brunette quarterback for the Baltimore Charm, butted in. “You get to wear makeup, but you also get to put on a helmet.”

    They definitely all love to be on the spotlight. But more than anything, Gorman is out on the field to be a role model for other women.

    “I embrace the responsibility,” said Gorman, who turned 26 last March 30. “What separates me from other players, in general, is my passion, my personality.

    "But I know in the back of my head that I want to play because I just want to be an example to other women. I want to be an example (also) to men as a reminder that, ‘Wow, this is a woman that not only should we respect, but I’m gonna have a reminder of how much I should care about what my wife does.’”

    “I love the eyes on me, absolutely, because I am being an example to other people and it’s a thrill to have other people come to watch you play. You have to enjoy the ride. It’s an experience so if I can give somebody an experience, that is probably the biggest blessing that you can have in life.”

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    After all, they owe it to their fans.

    “The LFL wouldn’t be the LFL if it wasn’t for the fans,” said Angela, a single mother and daughter of Mark Rypien, the former National Football League MVP who led the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl XXVI title.

    “We stay, especially the three of us, until the very last fan is there because we wouldn’t be anything without them. To step out of that tunnel and just to hear and see everybody, it’s amazing.”

    “It’s definitely an honor to see somebody you don’t know showing up for a game wearing your number. If I can motivate somebody else to come to a game and wear number sixteen, that definitely means something to me,” Natalie added. “It means I’m affecting somebody else’s life and motivating them in a positive way.”

    Still, Gorman demands respect from the viewers.

    “When you look at women, yes, you want to have the curves and you want to have this woman you want to be with, but you know at the same time she’s gonna kick your ass. It’s like the level we want to be at and that’s a good way to be a role model.”

    And watch out if you would ever treat her even a bit inappropriately.

    “I broke a gentleman’s nose after a game. He grabbed my butt and I broke his nose,” Gorman said. “I am my own security. Sometimes there are some fans that are obsessed a little bit too much on the way that we look and get a little bit too involved, let’s put it that way.”

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    While it has received positive feedback, the league remains vulnerable to criticism. And Gorman defended the LFL against people who have objectified them negatively, with reference to the word “glass ceiling,” a term defined by Merriam-Webster as an “intangible barrier within a hierarchy that prevents women or minorities from obtaining upper-level positions," is also applicable to sports and not just in business.   

    “I have talked to women that call themselves feminists and people that want to say that we are setting women back. Sports, in general, is a male-dominated industry, point blank. We all know that, so media coverage is going to scrutinize women because when you look at any type of woman that are in sports, it’s, ‘Are they marketable?’ regardless of their play or whatever sport they do, objectifying women is a very loose term and I feel that it’s an ignorant statement because at the same time, what we are doing is we’re being athletes.”

    “If you don’t like something, you have to change it. You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” she added.

    Still, she believes the sport can thrive in a more conservative country like the Philippines.

    “For conservative people, if they love the health industry, if they like role models, they’re gonna support us because those people are gonna see us for who we truly are,” said Gorman, who’s also an entrepreneur and has her own health system that can be found on her website, ilivehybrid.com.

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    The prospect of entertainment alone, makes Jahnke convinced.

    “Heck, yes. I believe that there’s an entertainment value that the Philippines needs and LFL full-contact, tackle football, the world’s sexiest sport, is gonna bring that to them.”

    Catch the 2013 LFL US season as it airs on Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on KIX (Channel 63 on Skycable, 10 on Globe Destiny, and 220 on Cable Link).

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    League of Legends stars Angela Rypien, Liz Gorman and Natalie Jahnke paid the country a visit this week to promote the gridiron full-contact, tackle football sport with a twist. Jerome Ascano
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