The abysmal true adventures of a New Orleans Saints cheerleader
The NFL team fired Bailey Davis for breaking its rules. She says they’re sexist
Fired cheerleader: Bailey Davis filed a complaint after she was sacked for violating a social-media policy that does not apply to the team’s male players. Photograph: Zack Wittman/New York Times
When it comes to the greatest movie titles of our time The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom has few rivals. It has so many keywords it reads like a Mail Online headline.
The 1993 film was based on the true story of Wanda Holloway, who tried to hire a hit man to kill the girl who beat her daughter to a place on the junior-high cheerleading squad. She wanted the girl’s mother dead, too. We’ve all been there. After a tangled legal process she served just six months of a 15-year prison term but was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service, which Holloway might have felt was a fate worse than life without parole.
The cheerleading world isn’t always that murky, but it evidently has its moments. The New Orleans Saints NFL team will just have to trust that a former cheerleader of theirs doesn’t have a mother with similarly murderous intent.
You could be bang in the middle of your cheeseburger when a linebacker strolls in, and if you don’t abandon your grub and scarper then you’re breaking the rules
In a zinger of a story the New York Times reported at the weekend that 22-year-old Bailey Davis has filed a complaint with the US equal-employment-opportunity commission after the Saints fired her for allegedly attending the same party as one of the team and for posting a photograph of herself in a swimsuit on her Instagram account back in January.
This is the latest in a run of stories showing that cheerleaders are getting increasingly and deliciously bolshie with their American sporting employers – there was a time they just dutifully waved their pom-poms in support of the lads.
Cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets have all successfully sued their teams over pay, although the Buffalo Bills opted to disband their Buffalo Jills rather than meet their demands, the final straw coming when the Jills had the brass neck to form the first professional cheerleaders’ union.
Mind you, there is still no fortune to be made from cheerleading, ESPN estimating last year that they earn between $75 and $150 a game – that’s between about €60 and €120 – up to a maximum of $3,500 a year for the “elite” performers. You wouldn’t want to be giving up the day job.
Few would argue that the women should be picking up cheques on a par with, say, Kirk Cousins, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback, who has to make do on $28 million a year, but, then again, the starting salary for an NFL mascot is, apparently, $25,000, rising to $100,000. So, for dressing up in a furry suit and acting the eejit for a couple of hours, you can earn nearly 30 times as much as you would for performing some serious gymnastics while wearing gear skimpy enough to land you with hypothermia in the dead of winter. The Saints’ mascot dresses up as a St Bernard dog, so he’s well cosy.
But never mind the pay, what about the rules cheerleaders have to abide by? Well, the NYT got hold of the handbook the Saints gives to cheerleaders. And it reads as if it was written in 1818.
The gist is that Saintsations must have zero contact with the players, either in person or on social media, with the onus placed on them to avoid the lads. If, for example, a player follows them on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, they must block him – and if they don’t they can be fired. There is no punishment for the player.
The best bit, though: “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.” So you could be bang in the middle of your cheeseburger and chips when a linebacker strolls in, and if you don’t abandon your grub and scarper then you’re breaking the rules. No kidding.
So the federal equal-employment-opportunity commission must decide if it’s reasonable for the Saints to have one rule for the lasses and another for the lads. The team argues that its rules are designed to protect their cheerleaders from “players preying on them”, but instead of instructing their players to back off if the attention is unwanted, the onus is on the young women to protect themselves. A quick reminder: this is 2018.
Later in the piece we learn that in trials for those wanting to become Buffalo Jills “they were told to do jumping jacks to see if their flesh jiggled”. If they got hired, one of the instructions they were given was “how to wash the intimate areas of their bodies”. Other cheerleaders were warned not to drink, smoke, curse or chew gum in public.
You’d like to think the Saints are jiggling with nerves ahead of the “verdict”. But it’s unlikely. The moral of the story, really, is, whatever about the stage, don’t put your daughter in a cheerleading squad, Mrs Worthington. It’ll be a positively abysmal true adventure.