Two former NFL cheerleaders who filed gender discrimination claims against the American football league have offered to settle for $1 each in return for a meeting with its commissioner.
Former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after she was fired in January. The club said she had violated Saints policy by posting an image of herself in a lace leotard on a private Instagram account and for allegedly attending a party with Saints players. Davis argues that there are glaring discrepancies between the rules for female cheerleaders and those for the male players.
Meanwhile, former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ware filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, claiming she was discriminated against because of her gender and religion. She says she was mocked by coaches after posting a photo of herself being baptised, and by her fellow cheerleaders when they found out she planned to abstain from sex until marriage.
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Both women have now said they are willing to settle for $1 if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his lawyers hold a “good faith” four-hour meeting with them and two other cheerleaders in order to “prepare a set of binding rules and regulations which apply to all NFL teams”. They have also requested that teams that currently have cheerleading squads would not be allowed to disband them for at least five years.
So why are they willing to forego a potential payout?
An act of ‘ritual humbling’
Slate suggests Davis and Ware might have looked at previous high-profile discrimination cases and decided they have “a better shot at justice in the court of public opinion than in a years-long trial that may yield only incremental reforms”.
Several other women in the public eye have waived the possibility of greater financial gain to give the public one less reason to avoid their claims, the news site says.
“Taking money out of the equation is an act of ritual humbling before the court of public opinion. It’s also a symbolic recognition that, in some of these cases, that figurative court gets better results than an actual one,” Slate adds.
Making the NFL’s words ‘mean something’
The new proposal “could force the league into making the next move in what has become a sticky public-relations battle”, reports The New York Times.
The NFL has said that it supports fair employment practices and that everyone who works in the NFL “has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws”.
According to Slate, rather than letting the league get away with that “PR gobbledygook”, the cheerleaders want to use the proposed meeting with Goodell to “force the league to make those words mean something”.
A chance for change
Sara Blackwell, a Florida lawyer representing the two women, has asked for a response from the NFL by 4 May.
“We want the opportunity for change,” Blackwell says. “We’re not asking (the NFL) to admit fault, or to admit guilt, or even admit that there is anything wrong. But if they do want and expect that cheerleaders should have a fair working environment, as they have stated, then it doesn’t make any common sense why the answer would be no.”
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