NFL cheerleaders are in a double bind when it comes to reporting sexual harassment. While some teams may say they encourage women to report any kind of a situation where they feel unsafe, a number of cheerleaders told The New York Times they risk losing their jobs for raising concerns.
These complaints follow a report last month that exposed the double standards facing cheerleaders working in the NFL.
The women who shared their stories from the sidelines recalled drunk fans inappropriately touching them and going to meet intoxicated crowds without security.
Cheerleaders are trained to politely react against unruly fans, not to insult them or make them feel bad about their actions.
“If someone got too handsy, we could just turn around and leave,” said Lacy Thibodeaux, a former cheerleader for the Raiders. “But we still had to be gracious and say, ‘Thank you very much.’”
Another uncomfortable situation took place when a group of women who cheered for the Washington Redskins was sent to a man’s house, paid to perform one of their routines in his basement and forced to stick around while the homeowner and his male friends watched a football game.
“It’s literally like you’re calling for an escort,” said the unnamed source.
The article also included the testimony of women working for NBA and NHL teams. Their stories were not much different.
“I remember getting my butt grabbed by a 12-year-old who should’ve been kicked out of the game,” said a former dancer for the Cleveland Cavaliers. “For whatever reason, fans think they own you.”
Some of the women sharing their experience say they now regret not speaking up earlier.