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KORENICH: Sexism throughout the NFL harmful

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

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Recently, an NFL cheerleader for the Saints named Bailey Davis was fired after posting a selfie in a one-piece bodysuit online that broke team rules. A group of cheerleaders, including Davis, decided to sue the league for holding them to different standards than the players because they are females.

The women eventually dropped their lawsuit on the condition the NFL commissioner meet with the women and hear their concerns.

Instances like this highlight the discrepancies between males and females in professional sports. It is essential to hold men and women to the same standards and get rid of embarrassing double standards, like these, that still exist.

Davis said Saints cheerleaders are told to leave a restaurant if an NFL player enters and block all NFL players on social media accounts. They are prohibited from appearing nude, semi-nude or in lingerie in photos even on private accounts. The NFL players, however, do not have to follow any of these rules.

In connection with this suit, USA Today sports columnist and Marquette alum Nancy Armour, tweeted, “Does the NFL consider cheerleaders to be valued employees or eye candy? This is one way to find out.”

It certainly seems that they are being viewed as eye candy when all of the rules surrounding what they post have to do with protecting the cheerleaders’ image.

In another case, Kristan Ware, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, said she was subjected to work in a hostile environment because she expressed a faith in Christianity. The Dolphins released a statement saying they hold every member of their organization to the same standards and do not discriminate against gender, race or religion. This doesn’t seem to be supported though. It is easy to make a statement, but the real work comes with follow-through.

Ware posted a photo during the off season of herself being baptized. After learning that Ware was saving herself for marriage and was currently a virgin, she was harassed by her coaches. She was adorned with angel wings in a 2016 bikini fashion show, which Ware believed was an attempt to mock her virginity. During that same show, she was grabbed physically by the team’s cheerleading director when she exited the stage. Despite reporting the incidents to the team’s human resources department, the harassment continued and Ware did not try out for another season.

Everyone has the right to work in a safe environment free from harassment and ridicule. It is especially important in places like the NFL, which is male dominated. It can feel even more uncomfortable and scary to be ridiculed and have all these standards as a woman in a mostly male environment.

Many of the sanctions that cheerleaders have to adhere to also apply to outside the workplace. Having conduct to adhere to at work is one thing, but infiltrating someone’s personal life is completely different. To make matters worse, according to USA Today, some cheerleaders made less than $1,000 for the year in 2016. A measly salary.

The list of rules cheerleaders must abide by is extensive. On some teams, they are forced to buy their own uniforms. On others, they are given uniforms, but must pay for any maintenance that needs to be done on them. According to The New York Times, Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders must be “within three pounds of their ideal weight.” Carolina Panthers cheerleaders cannot put their street clothes on until they have left the stadium, and Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders are subjected to regular weigh-ins.

Many of these standards are completely demeaning and certainly would not apply to the players or even just other NFL staff members. All employees should be treated as if they are people, not objects. Just because cheerleaders are entertainers during the game, does not mean their whole lives revolve around this performance or a certain image.

The NFL would fare better if they amended many of their regulations so everyone was treated the same regardless of the position that they hold within the corporation.

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