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NFL Cheerleader Says She Was Body Shamed, Duct Taped In Lawsuit

Over the past few years, we have been covering the growing number of NFL franchises facing lawsuits by former cheerleaders accusing teams of allowing hostile, abusive, exploitative and oppressive workplace environments. Unfortunately, we are discovering that this mistreatment of NFL cheerleaders is part of a deeper culture of accepted oppression and more and more victims are stepping forward to tell their stories. 

According to Sports Illustrated, “Over the last month, seven former Houston Texans cheerleaders have sued the team and raised very disturbing claims. The cheerleaders assert that they were subjected to assault, harassment, misappropriation of identity and unpaid wages. They also contend that the teams cheerleading coach, Altovise Gary, forcibly applied duct tape on at least one cheerleader as a means of humiliation and body-shaming.

Sports Illustrated on Twitter

Over the last month, seven former Houston Texans cheerleaders have sued the team. @McCannSportsLaw examines the legal claims in their complaints and the Texans’ possible defenses https://t.co/GN7VC3negl

 These cheerleaders felt intense pressure to avoid the alleged wrath of Gary, who is accused of obsessing over the cheerleaders weight and physiqueparticularly when the cheerleaders appeared skinny fat. All of the cheerleaders insist that they were grossly underpaid and required to operate in hostile and unsafe working conditions.”

“These and other claims are detailed in two complaints recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The cheerleaders demand jury trials and seek compensatory and punitive damages. Prominent civil rights attorney Gloria Allred and Houston attorneys Kimberly Spurlock and Bruse Loyd are representing the cheerleaders.

Hannah Turnbow, Ainsley Parish, Morgan Wiederhold, Ashley Rodriguez, Kelly Neuner, Angelina Rosa and a woman identified by the initials P.G.G. were all cheerleaders for the Texans in recent years. Turnbow and the other named women are co-plaintiffs in one complaint (Turnbow v. Texans) whereas P.G.G. has brought her own complaint (P.G.G. v. Texans). The two complaints raise similar claims and detail related fact patterns.”

The Texans are just the latest NFL team that is facing a lawsuit for creating unsafe, exploitive and oppressive work environments for its cheerleaders and creating a double standard in the workplace. Back in March, former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being fired from the team. 

Heavy.com on Twitter

Ex-cheerleader Bailey Davis is suing the New Orleans Saints for discrimination after she says she was fired for posting an Instagram photo in a one-piece swimsuit that the team said was too revealing, violating the team’s strict code of conduct: https://t.co/X7poqcCRvp

The basis of Davis complaint is that while employed as NFL personnel, she was forced to follow rules that applied only to women. Saints players had no onus to follow strict fraternization rules with the teams dancers.

Back in May we brought you a story about the Washington Redskins cheerleaders. They exposed an underground exploitative culture, dating back to the mid 2000s where, supposedly, Redskins owner Dan Snyder encouraged an environment that required cheerleaders to attend remote events where they would appear nude or in body paint as sexual objects and encouraged to flirt, drink and be escorts for men who were friends of the Redskins family.  

NYT Sports on Twitter

EXCLUSIVE: Redskins cheerleaders say they were required to go to a Costa Rica nightclub with male sponsors, who earlier watched a topless photo shoot. “We weren’t asked, we were told.” https://t.co/COG2WZiYrs

The former Texans cheerleaders “collectively take aim at what they portray as a strict, burdensome and often uncompensated workload that went well beyond merely appearing and performing at NFL games.” 

From Sports Illustrated,
“As the cheerleaders explain it, they were required to partake in team meetings, photo shoots, cheer rehearsals, apparel fittings and also travel long distances on behalf of the Texans. The cheerleaders were paid $7.25 an hourwhich is the federal minimum wagebut they insist that they were not paid for most of their work. Along those lines, the cheerleaders argue that Texans supervisors and human resources personnel failed to record much of their team-related activities. Therefore, the cheerleaders insist, the Texans failed to pay them for numerous hours of active employment.”

These complaints by cheerleaders against NFL teams concerning job discrimination is nothing new. 

SFGate on Twitter

49ers cheerleaders, others sue NFL for higher wages https://t.co/751tbzEWxS

In 2013, the Raiderettes filed a lawsuit concerning minimum wage and overtime pay. One year later, the team settled a wage-theft lawsuit with its cheerleaders for $1.25 million. The Bills and Bucs have also faced legal challenges over alleged violations of minimum wage laws in the past five years, with each case centered around women having their personal lives controlled by a part-time job that pays little more than $10 an hour. Instead of dealing with the lawsuits, the Bills disbanded the squad. 

The two most recent complaints by the former Texas cheerleaders also depict a workplace where the cheerleaders were frequently exploited and subjected to both discriminatory and degrading treatment. The cheerleaders were often reminded that they were easily replaceable and thus shouldnt complain or speak up.

Every lawsuit has two sides, and instead of just compensating the women who have told them that they were hurt while working for these NFL corporations, teams like the Texans – who are no champion of the people in regards to the way ownership handled the NFL player protests — are armed with a number of legal arguments in hopes of seeing these lawsuits dismissed.

On the surface, becoming an NFL cheerleader and being able to participate in the atmosphere of each Sunday football experience seems like a dream job. But we are now discovering that the price these women have to pay to wave their pom-poms is a very restrictive, intrusive, outdated and controlling one. 

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