Former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after she says she was fired in January for posting a photo on her personal Instagram account of herself in a one-piece swimsuit. That would seem like a pretty dumb reason to fire a cheerleader, given that a number of NFL teams promote and sell swimsuit calendars featuring their squads, but the New York Times learned the team has a bunch of retrograde cheerleading policies even more bizarre than this one.
In the past we’ve covered some of the more baffling language in various teams’ handbooks, such as the Bengals’ crusade against “slouching breasts,” or the Bills’ edict on vagina washing. The Saints’ rules on cheerleader-player interaction sound more like the requirements of a restraining order:
Cheerleaders are told not to dine in the same restaurant as players, or speak to them in any detail. 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. There are nearly 2,000 players in the N.F.L., and many of them use pseudonyms on social media. Cheerleaders must find a way to block each one, while players have no limits on who can follow them.
Cheerleaders are forbidden from talking to players in accordance with the “anti-fraternization policy.” Davis’s mother Lora, who works at a choreographer for the Saintsations, gave an example: “They’ve been told that anything beyond ‘hello’ and ‘great game’ is too personal.” They also cannot post photos of themselves wearing Saints gear.
The team says these rules are in place to protect the cheerleaders from the players, which seems insulting to both parties. Bailey Davis’s specific complaint filed with the EEOC is that the Saints have different sets of rules for the all-female cheerleading squad and the players. Under the team’s authority, the former exists solely as mononymous objects that smile at fans, are seen only when the Saints deem it appropriate, and are paid $10.25 an hour.