Discrimination In The Workplace: NFL Edition

Discrimination In The Workplace: NFL Edition

Taylor West, Staff Writer

Football is seen to be a male’s sport, and for the most part it is. Alongside professional football players are their female cheerleaders. Both set of athletes work hard to uphold their status and perform their best for die-hard fans.

If you’ve ever been to a football game, professional or even as small as middle school, it’s easy to see that the sideline cheerleaders are no joke. While both the cheerleaders and players work almost the same hours, put in equal dedication, and strive for their earned spots on the team/squad at professional levels, they experience dramatically different treatment from coaches and administration.

Recently, former cheerleaders from scattered teams under the NFL have spoke out about the harsh, and borderline illegal, treatment dealt to them and their co-workers. The first to shine light onto their poor treatment was previously terminated New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis. After posting a picture to her Instagram of herself wearing a one-piece outfit back in January, the squad found grounds on which to fire her. Previous acts of attending a party with Saints player and having communications with another were also violations Davis endured. As Davis also commented in an interview with New York Times magazine, she had participated on the team for “three largely trouble-free seasons.”

More recently, Kristan Ware, a former cheerleader for Miami Dolphins, came out with claims that she was “subjected to a hostile work environment for her expressions of faith in Christianity.” Similar to Davis’ scenario, Ware posted a picture on her Instagram of her getting baptized. This photo was the reason for Ware’s unwilling departure from the Dolphins, but there were were plenty of other incidences in which Ware felt they discriminated against her. With this being the squad’s reason for her unwilling departure from the Dolphins, there were plenty of other incidence in which Ware felt they discriminated against her, and added up to her removal. The former cheerleaders says that some of the coaches “mocked her” after learning that she was a virgin and “planned to wait for marriage” which encrypts her religion.

Both Ware and Davis speak out about many kinds of wrong-doings witnessed and encountered within the NFL cheerleading programs. However, since every girl signed on to a team is required to sign contracts that carefully restrict their lives both inside and outside the stadium, many cheerleaders spoke out off the record and anonymously. Cheerleaders for the Carolina Panthers, known as TopCats, must have all tattoos and piercings of any kind removed/covered. Adding to their strict appearance rules, the girls must only change into personal attire outside of the stadium. One of the most controversial topics under the NFL cheerleader requirements regarding appearance is the amount of makeup expected to be both applied and paid for out of the cheerleader’s pocket. One of the most staggering restrictions is prohibition of wearing sweatpants in public, as if the bottoms were a disgrace to the team’s name. To put a cherry on top of the rules that are taken very seriously, girls must “maintain ideal body weight” throughout their season and preseason.

Little rules and regulations are applied on the NFL football player, who, must I remind you, are all men. Even the simple rules within a game, like “no starting fights” have been violated greatly by the players. However, football players have bizzare and unfair rules just as cheerleaders do. Some of those include: required presence at press meetings, approved dress codes, no oversleeping, and no criminal records (or obtaining one during time with the team). Some of these rules, particularly oversleeping and racking up a criminal record, seem fairly easy enough to follow. Countless players under the NFL have violated these rules and regulations, just as their team’s cheerleaders have. The difference between cheerleading and player violation? One gets immediate release from their equally battled for spot, and the other merely gets a slam on the wrist, if that.

An NFL player close to home, Josh Brent, who was a defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, was convicted of intoxication manslaughter. Dwayne Goodrich, who played every position during his career but center under the Cowboys, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide. His initial serving time was 12 and a half years, but he was released after serving only 8. Goodrich was cut from the team, two months after the incident. Many of the players get fined for their behavior and indecency that creates the team’s reputation. While the answer may vary, which deserves a more harsh, immediate action of discipline: a cheerleader wearing sweatpants outside of their job, or a player accused of intoxication manslaughter?

While gender discrimination in the workplace happens almost everywhere, we as a society have unfortunately pushed the problem aside. In just the past couple of months, cheerleaders from the NFL have come out about the unfair and harsh conditions they face as girls compared to their male counterparts. Between immediate release from the team, to significantly low wages, NFL cheerleaders have faced and dealt with being discriminated against all because of their gender. While we can only hope that the NFL sees their wrong doings and begins to level the playing field between their hardworking cheerleaders and beloved players, change can only happen if we recognize and support these former cheerleaders in their legal battle against the National Football League.  

Related coverage used in creating this article: