For years cheerleaders have been underpaid and mistreated by their teams. But a wave of lawsuits could change things for the better
One dollar. That’s the amount former NFL cheerleaders Bailey Davis and Kristen Anne Ware offered to settle for in exchange for a four-hour sit down with Roger Goodell, the commissioner of their league. Both athletes have accused the NFL of discriminating against women. Last season, Davis claims she was fired from her position cheering for the New Orleans Saints after sending a private Instagram photo of herself in a one-piece bathing suit. Ware alleges she lost her job with the Miami Dolphins when she showed up to work wearing a ring that signified she was a virgin. Both were underpaid, subject to extreme control over their lives, and expected to adhere to anti-fraternization rules that applied to them but not the players they devoted their lives to cheering for. Accounts like theirs are surfacing frequently, bubbles of scandal rising in fast succession: markers of a rolling boil.
Since 2014, five other NFL teams – the Raiders, Buccaneers, Bengals, Jets, Bills, and one NBA team, the Bucks – have faced lawsuits from their dancers, each alleging severe labor violations, and offering glances into the secretive and manipulative world of professional cheerleading: mandatory diets; forced beauty regimens paid out of pocket; countless hours of work for which the super-rich teams they cheered for refused to pay them. Perched atop of this mountain of alleged mistreatment, and riding the rocky aftermath of a recent New York Times story that revealed that in 2013 Washington cheerleaders were required to pose topless and act as unpaid escorts to the team’s sponsors, Goodell chose not to meet face to face with Davis and Ware. He sent his lawyers instead.
Written by Tess Barker
This news first appeared on https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/may/18/nfl-nba-cheerleaders-lawsuits-sports under the title “
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