NFL open to discussions with cheerleaders
The National Football League has indicated it is open to having discussions with cheerleaders to improve their working conditions, an attorney representing two former cheerleaders in gender-discrimination claims told The New York Times.
The NFL confirmed to the newspaper that a letter was sent to attorney Sara Blackwell, who is representing cheerleaders who filed claims earlier this year against the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins.
The league’s letter is in response to Blackwell’s offer to drop the complaints if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league lawyers had a “good faith” meeting with at least four cheerleaders to create binding rules and regulations for all teams. Also, the settlement proposed that teams currently with cheerleading squads would not be allowed to disband them as retaliation for at least five years.
Blackwell, who represents former Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis and former Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ware, had asked for a response from the NFL by Friday. She said a letter from NFL attorney Steven Hurd was received on Friday, though she did not provide a copy to the newspaper for publication. “I’m grateful for this letter, and I do believe that this is a good-faith effort by the NFL. There could be good things that come from it.” Blackwell told the Times.
“As we said before, our office is working with the clubs in sharing best practices and employment-related processes that will support club cheerleading squads within an appropriate and supportive workplace,” NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy said in an email to the Times. “The letter expressed that a conversation would be welcome regarding information or recommendations related to the teams’ policies.”
It remained unclear if the conversations would include Goodell.
Blackwell told the Times she will suspend the two complaints but would resume them if the league is not genuine in its commitment to discussions.
Davis was fired from the Saintsations cheerleading squad after posting an Instagram photo showing her in an outfit similar to a one-piece swimsuit. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying that the Saints have different standards for women and men.
Ware, who worked for three seasons with the Dolphins, filed a complaint in April with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, saying she was subjected to a hostile work environment and discriminated against over gender and religion.
The two other cheerleaders who would attend the meeting with Davis and Ware have not been determined, Blackwell said, but they would not be associated with Blackwell and would come from different teams.
The Times previously reported that cheerleaders for the Washington Redskins were required to pose topless for a photo shoot while spectators invited by the team looked on and that others were required to attend a nightclub event as escorts for some of the team’s male sponsors.
The Redskins are investigating the report.