Creepy lengths to control cheerleaders
BEFORE New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis was fired for posting a swimsuit photo online in January, she, like fellow cheerleaders of the NFL franchise, were often tasked to sell calendars of themselves posing in bikinis to fans tailgating outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Should they fail to sell 20 ahead of kick-off, squad members would instead have to take their show on the road, to the stands.
"You walk by a guy and you're afraid you're going to get touched," Davis told the New York Times as part of an extensive piece.
"Every girl dreads going out there before the games. We didn't feel very important because we were literally thrown into the mix with the fans. Who would throw professional cheerleaders, walking around with cash, out with drunk fans?"
The Saintsations weren't the only team with similar job requirements.
Before the Buffalo Bills' Jills ceased performing as a result of a lawsuit, performers were expected to sell 50 calendars per season, according to the Times, purchasing them for $US10 but selling them for $US15. They were allowed to keep the profit.
Although seven of the handbooks reviewed by the publication note regulations concerning personal appearance - Ravens cheerleaders would be subject to regular weigh-ins, per the 2009 handbook - how the women are instructed to carry themselves off the field is more complicated.
Cheerleaders are forced to obey strict sets of rules, according to the New York Times.
Carolina Panthers cheerleaders can only take water breaks when the Panthers are on offence, have to remove or cover all piercings and tattoos and must leave the stadium to change into their personal attire.
Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders had regular weigh-ins to ensure they weren't gaining too much weight, and Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders in recent years have been expected to remain within 1.5kg of their "ideal weight".
Per The Times, some cheerleader handbooks also include personal hygiene tips and say women are prevented from swearing trackpants in public.
A handbook provided to Oakland Raiders cheerleaders reveals they can be fined or docked pay if their boots are not published on game day or if they forget part of their uniform.
"The club's intention is to completely control the behaviour of the women, even when they are not actually at their workplace," explained Leslie Levy, who previously represented cheerleaders who sued the Jets and Raiders.
"It's an issue of power. You see a disparate treatment between the cheerleaders, and the mascots and anyone else who works for the team. I can't think of another arena where employers exert this level of control, even when they are not at work."
Davis, 22, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being axed from the Saintsations. Davis is accused of violating several rules, one stemming from the photo posted online earlier this year: Cheerleaders are barred from appearing nude, semi-nude or in lingerie on social media.
Cheerleaders are also prohibited from mingling with players on and off social media.
"If the cheerleaders can't contact the players, then the players shouldn't be able to contact the cheerleaders," Davis' lawyer, Sara Blackwell, previously 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."
As for the Saints, they maintain Davis wasn't terminated because of her gender.
"The Saints organisation strives to treat all employees fairly, including Ms. Davis," Leslie A. Lanusse, a lawyer who is representing the team, said in an email.
"At the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum, the Saints will defend the organisation's policies and workplace rules. For now, it is sufficient to say that Ms. Davis was not subjected to discrimination because of her gender."