Fired NFL cheerleader pushes back against gender bias in the league
Bailey Davis was fired in January from her job as a cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints. The offense? An Instagram post.
Now, Davis is protesting her firing in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She feels there’s an imbalance between the rules of conduct relating to players versus those relating to “Saintsations,” the name for Saints cheerleaders.
“The players have the freedom to post whatever they want to on social media. They can promote themselves, but we can’t post anything on our social media about being a Saintsation,” Davis told Lulu Garcia-Navarro on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.
“We can’t have it in our profile picture, we can’t use our last name for media, we can’t promote ourselves, but the players don’t have the same restrictions.”
Trouble started for Davis on Jan. 25, when she shared a photo of herself wearing a lace bodysuit on Instagram. “I wanna break glass ceilings not fit glass slippers,” her post read, ending with the hashtag #leveltheplayingfield.
She was fired shortly after for violating the team’s code of conduct. Her mother, who worked as the cheerleading squad’s choreographer for nearly 18 years, resigned as well.
The team maintains a strict set of rules governing each cheerleader’s conduct online and off, according to the NPR report. An NFL spokesperson informed Mashable that cheerleader hiring and conduct policies are set locally, at the team level.
An accompanying statement from the league notes that “the NFL and all NFL member clubs support fair employment practices.”
The statement continues: “Everyone who works in the NFL, including cheerleaders, has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws. Our office will work with our clubs in sharing best practices and employment-related processes that will support club cheerleading squads within an appropriate and supportive workplace.”
Under the Saints rules, according to Davis, Saintsations aren’t allowed to appear nude, seminude, or in lingerie in public spaces. Players are not permitted to follow them on social media, and Saintsations themselves need to set their accounts to private. Further, they’re expected to leave parties or restaurants if a player shows up.
“The football players have a different job than us, and I completely understand that. But as far as being in the same place as a player, and me being the one who has to be careful about where I’m at, and watch out for them, that’s so discriminating,” Davis said.
“If I’m [at a place before a player] first, I would still have to leave. And that’s not just Saints players, it’s any NFL team, or NBA. So anybody from the Pelicans could walk in, and I would have to leave, or I’d be fired.”
Davis’s complaint takes direct aim at these restrictive rules. Most any pro football player you can think of maintains a public social media presence, and many post photos of themselves that would be considered off-limits for the cheerleaders.
Lots of pro sports players don’t have a great track record when it comes to their treatment of women, and it’s been a particular problem in the NFL. Davis feels that rules aimed at protecting cheerleaders shouldn’t also penalize the ones who need protecting.
The players are the ones that bring crowds to the stadiums week after week, but shouldn’t the rules be structured to punish the ones who misbehave? Players might be less inclined to act like horrifying sex monsters if they know their platform is at risk whenever they step out of line.
There’s no way to view the text of Davis’s EEOC complaint, as the investigation is apparently ongoing.