A former cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints’ Saintsations squad has filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that female dancers were held to a higher standard than the male football players they rooted for, the New York Times reports.
Though the Saintsations website still lists Bailey Davis as a member, the 22-year-old dancer says she was fired after three seasons with the squad for posting a photo of herself in a one-piece outfit to Instagram. Davis claims that the post did not violate her code of conduct, as her Instagram was set to private in accordance with team regulations and she was not nude, seminude, or wearing lingerie.
“Very poor judgment to post a picture like that especially considering our recent conversations about the rumors going around about u,” Saintsations senior director Ashley Deaton texted Davis (pictured below on the right) four days before she was fired, referencing a rumor that the cheerleader had attended the same party as a player. “This does not help your case. I’d expect you to know better.”
Davis’s dismissal may indicate a larger problem with how the Saints, and the NFL, treat their male and female employees. A Times investigation showed that cheerleaders must adhere to an anti-fraternization policy that prevents them from socializing with players, including blocking players from their social media accounts. Players themselves are not reprimanded for pursuing contact.
The anti-fraternization policy reportedly also prohibits cheerleaders from speaking to NFL stars or even dining at the same restaurant.
“They’ve been told that anything beyond ‘hello’ and ‘great game’ is too personal,” Davis’s mother, Lora, who has also served as a Saintsations choreographer, said. “It’s considered fraternization to say anything beyond that.”
Davis’s lawyer argued that this treatment amounts to a double standard.
“If the cheerleaders can’t contact the players, then the players shouldn’t be able to contact the cheerleaders,” attorney Sara Blackwell told the Times. “The antiquated stereotype of women needing to hide for their own protection is not permitted in America and certainly not in the workplace.”
“I’m doing this for [other cheerleaders] so they can do what they love and feel protected and empowered and be a female athlete and not be pushed to the side and feeling unimportant,” added Davis, who would have been paid $10.25 an hour for her fourth and final season, per squad policy.
While the NFL declined to comment on Davis’s complaint, the Saints have denied any wrongdoing.
“The Saints organization strives to treat all employees fairly, including Ms. Davis,” Leslie A. Lanusse, a lawyer for the team, said. “At the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum, the Saints will defend the organization’s policies and workplace rules. For now, it is sufficient to say that Ms. Davis was not subjected to discrimination because of her gender.”
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