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: Since , 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: He sent his lawyers instead.
Stress fractures, hunger and low pay: We can deal with it though the legal process. While it remains unclear whether Goodell is playing the cheerleaders, he has, in the past, given lip service to treating them fairly. They would also be subject to intensive control of their behavior and appearance by the Bills. They would additionally be subject to the rules and regulations of the NFL. They would not hold the league or the team responsible for any harm that befell them while working for the team.
They would not be, as Goodell claimed in his Super Bowl 50 press conference, employees of the team. The NFL is also named as a defendant in the ongoing suit against the Bills.
While much of the focus has been on NFL cheerleaders, rampant mistreatment of dancers appears to be endemic to the NBA as well. NBA cheerleaders, like their NFL counterparts, are often required to sign arbitration agreements, which force employees claiming damages into highly confidential settlement talks.
At the time, both the Pelicans and Saints were owned by late billionaire Tom Benson. Though the Bucks settled with Herington, she does not believe the team made any amendments to their policies as a result of her suit. She cited a juniors camp, as an example of the way she and her team-mates brought in revenue for her own team, the Bucs. Pierre-Val was not paid for the eight-hour days she worked as an instructor at the camp.
You can be fired. Just as individual cheerleaders are led to believe firmly in their own irrelevance, so too, are dance teams threatened with the specter of annihilation. The people who are paying for the calendars. The people who are there to take pictures with us. In popular culture, dancers are increasingly recognized for their athletic merits. Cheerleading requires intensive exercise and mental acuity. Professional dancers in unions, who perform for audiences of this size or smaller, bring home exponentially higher salaries than their cheerleading counterparts.
In order for cheerleaders to work in a safe environment, and to earn what truly amounts to fair pay, the women will have to organize.
While Blackwell says she would be happy to help cheerleaders unionize, she does not foresee that happening in the near future, while the athletes remain in an insular, fear-based culture. For the time being, Blackwell is focusing her efforts on her individual cases against teams, as well as where she sees the solution: She believes that coming to an agreement about changes is necessary for the protection of her clients, but also for the NFL and its teams.
In reference to the recent Washington cheerleaders story, Blackwell asked: And they were well aware of the situation?