Bailey Davis, 22, recently filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming she was fired from the New Orleans Saintsations for posting an Instagram of herself wearing a one-piece bathing suit. However, the former professional cheerleader’s mistreatment is just one example of mistreatment in the industry. In fact, several current and former cheerleaders recently told The New York Times that they’re routinely subjected to harassment and groping by fans.
“When you have on a push-up bra and a fringed skirt, it can sometimes, unfortunately, feel like it comes with the territory,” said Labriah Lee Holt, a former cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans. “I never experienced anything where someone on the professional staff or the team said something or made me feel that way. But you definitely experience that when you encounter people who have been drinking beer.”
Team officials know that the harassment happens, but don’t do much to prevent it, cheerleaders told the paper, pointing out that they’re regularly required to mingle with fans at games and promotional events where people are often consuming alcohol. One Redskins cheerleader who remained anonymous also said that she and several of her teammates once had to go to a fan’s house, where men were drinking, and watching a football game.
A cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys who was also anonymous said a fan for an opposing team once caught her eye and said, “I hope you get raped!” “That’s the kind of stuff we’d have yelled at us. Even from our fans, once they get drunk, they yell things, and you’re like, ‘Really?’ It’s part of the job. It comes with it. You’re supposed to take it,” she said.
Cheerleaders aren’t the only workers who are subjected to this kind of behavior: Restaurant servers, models, and flight attendants are routinely encouraged to grin and bear sexual harassment when it occurs. (A shocking two-thirds of female servers reported to the Restaurant Opportunities Center that they have endured sexual harassment from their employers, customers, and fellow staffers, and half said they actually feared for their safety at work.)
“Sexual harassment should never be the price of a paycheck in a modern society,” Delia Coleman, director of strategic communications at Equal Rights Advocates, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “For any worker, especially those in roles that require a lot of contact with customers or clients, unwanted physical touching, leering, or a clearly hostile working environment is never acceptable. It’s concerning but also not surprising that women have been made to feel this way because they are explicitly instructed to tolerate it and threatened with termination if they don’t.” Saying things like “I hope you get raped” also goes beyond harassment and into serious threats, Coleman points out.