2011 Villain: Mitch Mortaza
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2011 Villain: Mitch Mortaza

Nominated for: treating players in the Lingerie Football League like sex objects, not athletes.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past twelve months. From December 12–23, the candidates for Mightiest and Meanest—and new this year, a reader’s write-in option! From December 26–29 you’ll be able to vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year, and we’ll reveal the results December 30.

Normally, Torontoist would consider villains like Mitch Mortaza with the same contempt as we would regard his fellow fake-tanning, hair-spiking, self-aggrandizing, over-compensating brethren, or anyone who goes on Blind Date and wears sunglasses throughout a candlelit dinner, calls himself a “21st century Hugh Hefner” in his own press release, or starts a sports organization called the Lingerie Football League. That is, with detached disdain.

His douchebaggery is undeniable, surely, but as a man based in Hollywood he never did anything to directly offend us north of the border. And we have enough malefactors of our own to worry about calling out a Californian chauvinist who makes a living objectifying women. Then the announcement came down in April that Toronto was getting our own Lingerie Football League franchise.

Setting aside the inequality between men’s and women’s sports that the players in the Lingerie Football League blatantly embody—that to be taken seriously (i.e. for them to seem profitable) female athletes must become sex objects—there’s more than the barely there uniforms that makes villains of Mortaza and his league.

While Mortaza is a self-proclaimed millionaire and applauds the LFL for being America’s fastest-growing professional sports league, when he started it in 2009 he also stated that the “best part of it” was that “there is no salary. The players get a percentage of the gate based on them winning and losing….The players are going to be incented [sic] to play fierce football and win games.” More recently, any sort of pay was removed and, instead, players had to pay a $45 fee for the honour of playing the sport on a smaller field, for shorter periods than men’s football, with what the LFL’s players allege are inexperienced coaches and unsafe equipment. Mortaza’s been allowing this for the past two years, knowingly, and reportedly tells players to “SHUT UP and play football” if they complain about the league’s management, or fines them $500 if they wear any kind of “additional clothing” to prohibit instances of “accidental nudity” on the field.

So it’s really not surprising that 22 out of the original 26 members of the Toronto Triumph, including a member of the football-loving Ford clan, quit the team en masse after playing their first game. Not surprising, but kind of sad, since we saw first-hand that these women are real, rough, tough, and serious athletes just looking for a chance to play the game.

In a city like Toronto, where leagues like the Toronto Roller Derby League are legitimizing women’s sports, the LFL is an embarrassing step backward. So get out of our city, Mortaza, before another franchise follows your lead.