In an industry where players are fleeced for their physical gifts and then tossed aside once their bodies are broken, it should come as no surprise that cheerleaders are treated poorly.
The NFL’s franchises have a long history of treating players poorly when it suits the league, from denying disability claims to inconsistent discipline procedures. Players represent a very real economic benefit to the teams regardless of how the franchises treat them. That value is far above what the cheerleading squads that several NFL teams still carry, so it should shock no one that cheerleaders might be treated as less than human beings by the same organizations.
Sobering new allegations have surfaced in a New York Times report in regards to the Washington NFL franchise. Cheerleaders shared that in 2013, Washington took its cheerleading squad to a calendar photo shoot in Costa Rica. Accompanying the cheerleaders, photographers and team staff were some sponsors and suite holders at FedEx Stadium.
The cheerleaders claim that after they were deprived of their passports, they were compelled to appear topless for photos that would never make the calendar. The allegations also state that nine members of the cheerleading squads were told to act as de facto personal escorts for some of the sponsors during a specific evening.
These are just the latest allegations to surface regarding NFL franchises and poor treatment of cheerleaders. In recent months former cheerleaders for the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints have filed lawsuits against the league, alleging employment discrimination based on their gender. No formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints or civil lawsuits have been levied against Washington’s NFL franchise to this point.
The NFL has built its business on the backs of talented players whom it has trampled underfoot once they no longer represented the aesthetic the league desires. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the women on NFL cheerleading squads have been treated as nothing more than “eye candy” as well.