The rules don't apply to players.
Photo by Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
Over the past few years, NFL cheerleaders have been standing up for themselves. Cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals have all sued over poor pay and requirements that they pay for their own makeup, uniforms, and transportation.
Now, a former New Orleans Saints cheerleader is standing up against the team’s sexist policies by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “I’m doing this for them 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,” Bailey Davis told The New York Times.
@Bailey_Davis4 wanted to be a Saints cheerleader since childhood. In 2015, her dream came true, but 3 years later she was fired for posting a photo of herself in a bodysuit on Instagram. We talk to Davis in our upcoming doc. https://t.co/1sBV0FAhfj#leveltheplayingfield#nflpic.twitter.com/zCmfBOgDKQ— A Woman's Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem (@AWomansWorkDoc) November 27, 2018\n
Davis was fired for violating a social media policy that doesn’t apply to the the team’s players. She posted a photo of herself on her Instagram page — which was set to private — posing in a one-piece outfit.
Saints cheerleaders are prohibited from appearing nude, seminude or in lingerie.
“Very poor judgement to post a picture like that especially considering our recent conversations about the rumors going around about u,” Ashley Deaton, the senior director of the Saintsations, wrote to Davis in a text message. “This does not help your case. I’d expect you to know better.”
Her firing came amidst allegations she had gone to a party in which a Saints player was also in attendance. Davis denies she was at the party.
Davis’ compliant sheds light on a host of rules and regulations Saints cheerleaders must adhere to that don’t apply to the players.
Cheerleaders are not allowed to speak with players in person and must block them on social media. If a cheerleader is eating at a restaurant and a player walks in, the cheerleader must leave immediately.
“If the cheerleaders can’t contact the players, then the players shouldn’t be able to contact the cheerleaders,” said Sara Blackwell, Davis’ lawyer. “The antiquated stereotype of women needing to hide for their own protection is not permitted in America and certainly not in the workplace.”
Davis’ case is centered around the NFL’s personal conduct policy, which applies to all N.F.L. personnel, and prohibits any forms of unlawful discrimination in employment based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or sexual orientation, regardless of whether it occurs in the workplace or in other N.F.L.-sponsored settings.
The unequal treatment of players and cheerleaders is a pretty obvious example of a sexist double standard. But Davis may face an uphill battle because NFL players and cheerleaders work in what are known as highly “gendered” professions. This designation gives the Saints some wiggle room as to how they treat their employees.