Former Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis has found support – and opposition – in surprising places since alleging cheerleaders have a stricter set of standards than players.
The players have her back. Her former squad, not so much.
Former Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis told Moneyish that the cheers and jeers have been “crazy” in the week since she revealed to the New York Times that she’s filed a complaint against the New Orleans NFL team for holding the Saintsations squad to a stricter set of standards than the players. The women allegedly have to block active NFL players on social media and leave events – even dinner or a movie – if a player shows up. Players don’t have the same rules.
“The scariest part of coming forward was that I didn’t know what my teammates were going to think, because everyone in the organization has been so secretive that it was hard to stand up,” Davis, 22, told Moneyish from Sarasota, Fla. “I still haven’t heard from most of my teammates, whether it’s because they’re scared they’re going to lose their jobs if they support me, or I’ve heard some people say that I’m putting the team in a negative light.
“But I’m not trying to bash our team [the Saintsations] or the Saints. I’m doing this for them,” she added. “I want equal rules for us as well as the players.”
Davis cheered with the Saintsations for three years without questioning the anti-fraternization rules that they had to follow. But her firing in January for posting an Instagram pic of herself in a lacy bodysuit, which broke one of the Saintsations’ social media rules, was a revelation that the playbook the female cheerleaders lived by wasn’t shared by the male players.
“If I’m at a restaurant or at a party or in a movie theater, and a player walks in, I have to walk out. I just figured the players had the same fraternization rules; that we couldn’t hang out, we couldn’t date, we couldn’t talk over social media,” she said.
But when she was accused of being at the same party as a player not long before her firing, she learned that the players don’t have to avoid the cheerleaders in the same way. “I realized that’s crazy,” she continued. “It’s unfair. That shouldn’t be put on us (women) completely.”
Her lawyer Sara Blackwell agrees. “They are literally having to hide from players, when the players have no rules at all,” she told Moneyish.
But Davis can’t sue the team because she and the other cheerleaders signed an arbitration agreement when hired, meaning they gave up their right to sue in court over job-related issues. So Blackwell has filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as a demand for arbitration to plead their case to go to court, and requested a hearing with the NFL commissioner.
Neither the NFL nor the Saints responded to Moneyish requests for comment, but the team’s lawyer told the Times that, “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.”
So while both parties are in a holding pattern, Davis and Blackwell are fielding interviews and spurring women in the NFL and in other workplaces to action. Davis will also start auditioning for theater productions and other dance teams. “I wasn’t sure anyone would even listen to my story … it’s crazy how big this got,” said Davis. “This was a good year for this … we’ve got the Me Too movement against sexual harassment, and all of these women coming forward and saying: ‘We’re standing up. We’re done settling for things.’”
And double standards for women transcend cheerleading and football. “As a lawyer, I saw (male attorneys) taking clients to strip clubs and golfing, and we (female attorneys) were not invited. So the men had the relationships with the clients,” Blackwell noted, which advanced their careers faster than the women’s careers. “I think women can sympathize with the fact that yes, these (Saintsations’ rules) are egregious rules, and they are written, which makes it different. But all women can relate to unwritten rules where they are not treated equally.”
Davis said one player, whom she’s keeping anonymous because he hasn’t spoken out publicly about this, has contacted her to show his support. “I do know that a few players agree with what I’m doing,” she said. “And I was scared a lot of Saints fans would be negative toward me, like ‘how could you do this, this is your team,’ but a lot of Saints fans have messaged me over social media that, ‘I can’t believe this happened to you, this is so unfair and I’m going to miss you.’”
But the current Saintsations have distanced themselves. “I’ve heard one of (the Saintsations) is very angry at me, and said that what I was doing was selfish, and I was making the team look bad,” said Davis. “It hurt my feelings, because we were all very close. I do care about the team … I’m hoping that after this is over, and hopefully the rules are changed, they will will realize, ‘Yeah, this is really scary that we were treated that way.’”
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