Former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the Saints have two sets of rules for their employees -- one for women and one for men.
Per the New York Times, Davis posted a photograph to her private Instagram account wearing a one-piece swimsuit, after which Saints officials accused her, over her protests, of breaking rules that prohibit cheerleaders from appearing nude, seminude or in lingerie. The Saints additionally accused Davis of attending a party with Saints players, another regulation she denies violating. Davis also informed Saints officials that she was contacted by players on social media, after which the cheerleaders were told to block players from following them on social media, and to switch their social media settings from public to private. (By contrast, Saints players are not required to block cheerleaders from their accounts or make their settings private.)
Davis was eventually fired after what she claims were three trouble-free seasons.
Her complaint states that the team's rules regarding its cheerleaders reflect outdated views of women. "If the cheerleaders can't contact the players, then the players shouldn't be able to contact the cheerleaders," Davis' lawyer Sara Blackwell told the paper. "The antiquated stereotype of women needing to hide for their own protection is not permitted in America and certainly not in the workplace."
According to the Saints' handbook for cheerleaders, as well as internal emails and text messages reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with Davis, the Saints have an anti-fraternization policy that requires cheerleaders to avoid contact with players, in person or online, even though players are not penalized for pursuing such engagement with cheerleaders. The cheerleaders must block players from following them on social media and cannot post photos of themselves in Saints gear, denying them the chance to market themselves. The players are not required to do any of these things.
Cheerleaders are told not to dine in the same restaurant as players, or speak to them in any detail. If a Saints cheerleader enters a restaurant and a player is already there, she must leave. If a cheerleader is in a restaurant and a player arrives afterward, she must leave. There are nearly 2,000 players in the N.F.L., and many of them use pseudonyms on social media. Cheerleaders must find a way to block each one, while players have no limits on who can follow them.
The team says its rules are designed to protect cheerleaders from players preying on them. But it puts the onus on the women to fend off the men.
Leslie A. Lanusse, a lawyer representing the Saints in the complaint, issued the following statement to the Times: "The Saints organization strives to treat all employees fairly, including Ms. Davis. At the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum, the Saints will defend the organization's policies and workplace rules. For now, it is sufficient to say that Ms. Davis was not subjected to discrimination because of her gender."