The non-competitive focus of cheerleading is one of the main reasons why athletic associations and cheerleading advocates oppose labeling it a sport. Alyssa Roenigk argues in a 2014 ESPN article that calling it a sport would fundamentally change the nature of cheerleading, which is to promote school spirit and demonstrate support during athletic events.
Along with the National Federation of State High School Associations and the Women's Sports Foundation, the NCAA characterizes a sport as a competitive activity. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators makes the case that cheerleading does not meet the competition criteria set forth by the Women's Sports Foundation. Instead, the association supports the designation of "athletic activity" and encourages schools to refer to cheerleaders as student athletes. These measures bring attention to the intense athleticism and safety risks associated with cheerleading without jeopardizing cheerleading’s core principles.
In 2012, the U.S. Courts of Appeals also ruled on the matter, upholding a previous judgment against Quinnipiac University, which attempted to eliminate its women’s volleyball team and replace it with competitive cheerleading. The original 2010 ruling, handed down by a U.S. District Court judge in Connecticut, stated that competitive cheerleading in its current state does not qualify as a Title IX varsity sport. The same judge later noted that competitive cheerleading is not recognized as a sport by the NCAA, excluding it from NCAA-sponsored competitions.