A former cheerleader for the N.F.L.’s Miami Dolphins filed a complaint against the league and the team on Thursday, alleging that she was discriminated against because of her religion and gender.
Kristan Ware, who spent three seasons with the Dolphins’ cheerleading squad, ending in the spring of 2017, said in a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations that she was subjected to a hostile work environment for her expressions of faith in Christianity.
The complaint claims that Ware was held to a different standard than players, who often cite their faith publicly, everywhere from social media posts to locker room interviews. Some players kneel in prayer after a big play, and often pray together at the center of the field with opposing players after the game.
Ware is demanding arbitration from the Florida commission, and she also requested a hearing with N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“The N.F.L. and all N.F.L. member clubs support fair employment practices,” said the N.F.L. spokesman, Brian McCarthy. “Everyone who works in the N.F.L., including cheerleaders, 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. Our office will work with our clubs in sharing best practices and employment-related processes that will support club cheerleading squads within an appropriate and supportive workplace.”
In a statement, the Dolphins said: “We are seriously committed to providing a positive work environment for everyone associated with the organization. We hold every member of our organization to the same standards and do not discriminate as it relates to gender, race and religious beliefs.”
Ware contended that she became “a target of discipline, ridicule, harassment and abuse” from the team’s cheerleading director, Dorie Grogan, and other coaches and representatives of the squad only after she posted an off-season photo on social media of herself being baptized before her third season with the team.
Ware said some Dolphins cheerleading coaches mocked her after other cheerleaders learned that she was a virgin, planning to wait for marriage to have sex. At a 2016 rehearsal for a fashion show at which cheerleaders modeled bikinis, Ware claims, she was dressed with angel wings — something Ware believes was a poke at her virginity — and then physically grabbed and verbally harangued by Grogan as she exited the runway.
She complained to the team’s human resources department, she said, but the treatment from some leaders of the cheerleading team continued. She did not try out last year for a fourth season.
Ware’s is the second recent complaint filed on behalf of a former N.F.L. cheerleader by the lawyer Sara Blackwell. Last month, the former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed one with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, citing a double standard in rules imposed for female and male employees, after she was fired for violating a social media policy specific to cheerleaders.
That helped spark an outpouring of voices from current and former cheerleaders, sharing stories about low pay, arcane rules and the expectation that they would be sexually harassed by fans, with little recourse.
Blackwell said that she and Ware “are not focusing on monetary damages but they are requested.”
“Kristan requests the N.F.L., Dolphins and all N.F.L. teams immediately change their policies to be equal to both the players and the cheerleaders and to specifically stop all intimidation against the cheerleaders for maintaining and expressing their religious beliefs,” the complaint says.
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