Bailey Davis, the former New Orleans Saints cheerleader who was fired after she posted a private Instagram photo of herself in a lace bodysuit, spoke with NPR on Sunday about the subsequent complaint she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the NFL and the Saints. But Davis says the complaint isn’t garnering any support from her teammates and other NFL cheerleaders, who’ve been subjected to sexist, draconian codes of conduct they feared speaking out against for years.
“We’re told so many times, ‘There’s a hundred other girls that would do your job for free,’” Davis said. “You’re just taught to keep your mouth shut or they’d replace you.”
Davis’s rather chaste-sounding Instagram post violated NFL rules because cheerleaders aren’t allowed to post photos of themselves to social media that show them in lingerie (or nude, or seminude), even though, as Davis pointed out to NPR, football players can do what they damn please. “If I post something, and I’m in a swimsuit or in a body suit, it’s seen as something sexual, but the players can post shirtless in their underwear and it’s just seen as athletic,” Davis said.
Davis also noted that cheerleaders aren’t permitted to post anything to social media that reveals they’re Saints cheerleaders, even though players are free to promote themselves as they wish. “When they said, ‘Well, you need to make your page private so these players can’t find you,’ that’s when I realized, OK, [it’ll be] harder for people to find me and for me to find another job as a dancer, because social media is how we market ourselves nowadays,” Davis said.
Most infuriatingly, cheerleaders have to block players on social media to ensure they don’t follow them, and can’t even be in in the same location as players. “If I’m [at a place before a player] first, I would still have to leave,” Davis said. “And that’s not just Saints players, it’s any NFL team, or NBA. So anybody from the Pelicans could walk in, and I would have to leave, or I’d be fired.”
All of this is done under the auspice of “protecting” cheerleaders from being preyed on—as always, women are tasked with keeping men from assaulting them, which just serves to set women up to take the blame if an assault does happen. This was long an accepted practice, and, as Davis presents it, her teammates aren’t willing to upset the status quo:
My fellow teammates have not been supportive to me. I’ve been told that I’m putting the team in a negative light, and a lot of the girls have been posting stuff on social media, saying that, you know, the organization is great and offers so many opportunities — which is true, and I mean, I [felt] the same way when I was in the organization.
While Davis’s teammates might not be backing her up, her complaint has made some waves in the industry, and even inspired a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader to file a report with the Florida Commission on Human Relations alleging she faced discrimination for her Christian faith and for her choice to remain a virgin until marriage, according to NBC News.