NFL cheerleaders demand respect due all workers


Fired Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis and her ‘provocative’ photo

ALL BAILEY DAVIS WANTS IS A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD. So does Kristan Davis. They are suing the NFL to get it.

Both women were NFL cheerleaders. Both were fired. Both maintain they were victims of gender discrimination and denied basic worker’s rights due every worker, in every workplace.

Bailey Davis was fired when she dared to dress in a way the New Orleans Saints didn’t like. Kristan Davis was fired for daring to think out loud in a way the Miami Dolphins didn’t like.

Bailey Davis posted a photo of herself in lingerie on her own Instagram page. The Saints said this was against team policy for cheerleaders.

Kristan Davis spoke publicly about her decision to not have sex before marriage. Miami Dolphins felt this made her unworthy to be a Dolphin cheerleader.

Something more important than money

The two would rather talk than fight, however. Neither one wants what is usual in lawsuits like this. Neither woman wants her old job back and neither wants a huge cash settlement. In fact they are both ready to drop their lawsuit against the league.

What they want in return is $1 each and a face-to-face “good faith” meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the creation of clear, league-wide guidelines to follow going forward. The women have no conditions regarding what may, or may not, come out of the meeting.

“The NFL keeps saying that the cheerleaders deserve the right to fair and professional environments that are free of harassment and free of discrimination and that’s what we are saying, as well,” says Sara Blackwell, the lawyer representing both women.

“And we’re not asking for anyone to admit fault. We’re not asking for a chance to yell at anyone or accuse anyone. We don’t need anyone to say, ‘I did wrong.’ We just want to clear up [the rules] with the NFL, who say they think that cheerleaders deserve [an appropriate and supportive workplace] and to say, “so do we.” And so let’s just have a conversation about it.”

What makes this exceptional is that Davis and Wade are putting aside their own individual grievances to pursue a greater good. They are willing to forgo any settlement and are aware that they will not be rehired.

Blackwell points out the women are risking public ridicule: "The league could laugh at us the whole time, make fun of us, sit in the room without speaking. They could make a joke of us and that’s a risk that my clients are very well aware of and that I’m aware of—and we hope that’s not the case.

“All we’re doing is saying, ‘Now you’re bound by these rules and regulations: an environment that is professional and fair and free of discrimination and harassment.’ Let’s just have a discussion and let’s just try to come to an agreement when we’re both on the same side.”

This is a labour issue, pure and simple, says Blackwell.

“People have no idea that to be a professional cheerleader, you have to be bound by all of these awful, unlawful and egregious rules. I’m not saying every cheerleader has a problem, but I know that there are a lot of common issues within these teams that are unnecessary and unlawful that can be fixed.

What Goodell might have to do to fix things is not going to be so easy.

Cheerleaders say it was like being ‘pimped out’

A recent New York Times article carries first person accounts from Washington Redskins cheerleaders about their disrespectful treatment by team officials.

In 2013, 36 Redskins cheerleaders went on a team trip to Costa Rica to model for a team calendar. Like so much that NFL cheerleaders do, this was an unpaid gig.

After a 14-hour day, 9 of the 36 cheerleaders were told that their day was just beginning. Sponsors had picked them to be their “personal escorts” for the evening. Several started to cry.

The NYT story reports: “Their participation did not involve sex, the cheerleaders said, but they felt as if the arrangement amounted to ‘pimping us out.’

“What bothered them was their team director’s demand that they go as sex symbols to please male sponsors, which they did not believe should be a part of their job.”

Cheerleaders need to think union

Blackwell points out how easy—and cost-effective—it would be for Goodell to fix what ails the league. “He can have NFL rules and regulations that apply to teams and cheerleaders that protect the women and ensure the laws are followed. It costs the teams zero dollars.  It prevents future lawsuits, so it saves the NFL money.

“But, Goodell has no regard for women and has refused, thus far, to deal with these serious issues. I challenge sponsors of the NFL to demand change. I challenge fans to refuse to attend games. I challenge football players to take a stand.”

Nationally syndicated sports writer Dave Zirin calls the treatment of cheerleaders in the NFL a disgrace. But says there is an obvious and easy way for the NFL to do right by them. “They can pay the cheerleaders decent wages and cover them with basic labour protections. That the league cannot accomplish these modest goals speaks volumes about both Roger Goodell’s leadership and his league.

“The answer is not to abolish cheerleading, as some have suggested. The answer is a union for these workers so they can collectively bargain for the pay and treatment they deserve.”

There is no better way to give NFL cheerleaders what Bailey Davis calls “a level playing field.”

- 30 -




Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.