Before sliding into 2019, Yahoo Lifestyle takes a quick look back at some of the year’s biggest stories, and what’s happened since, with Rewind 2018.
In the nine months since former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis filed a gender discrimination complaint against the team — claiming she was fired over a sultry Instagram post — multiple cheerleaders from other teams have come forward to discuss similar treatment. Through lawsuits and exposés in the New York Times and elsewhere, they’ve cited unfair pay, gender discrimination and sexual harassment, most of which has been hidden for decades.
But as the cheerleaders continue to pull back the curtain, Sara Blackwell, the attorney representing Davis, is most surprised by what she’s not hearing — specifically, from the players. “Not one football player has spoken out or stood up for these women,” Blackwell, an employment attorney, tells Yahoo Lifestyle in an interview reflecting back on the year. “It’s offensive.”
Blackwell first connected with Davis over a year ago, after hearing her story of being allegedly fired from the Saints’ Saintsations Cheerleaders. Davis, whose story was eventually broken in a major New York Times piece, told Blackwell she’d been fired from the squad for posting an Instagram of her in a black teddy. Despite the one-piece’s resemblance to uniforms the cheerleaders regularly wear, the coaches allegedly told Davis that her post violated the rules against “appearing nude, seminude or in lingerie.”
Part of the coaches’ negative reaction, it seems, was fueled by their belief that Davis had violated another rule by attending parties with Saints players (Davis insists she did not). “Very poor judgement to post a picture like that especially considering our recent conversations about the rumors going around about u,” Ashley Deaton, the director of the Saintsations, reportedly wrote in a text to Davis at the time. “This does not help your case. I’d expect you to know better.”
With Blackwell’s help, Davis — whose cheerleading career ended as a result of the incident — filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as a private complaint against the team (which remains confidential due to an arbitration clause in her contract). Although both seem to be moving forward, Blackwell is still unsettled over how little the players — and fans — have rallied around cheerleaders like Davis.
“All we’ve asked for is change; all we asked for is you to make this better for all the women,” Blackwell tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “If you go through the stories that have come out, and that have been so public, it’s so sad. And not one football player has stood up and said anything on behalf of them,” Blackwell, says, alluding to stories like those recounted in an April article in the New York Times, where dozens of cheerleaders shared stories of being subjected to unwanted touching and sexual comments, on top of minimal pay.
“It’s easy to fix this, and it’s not costing money,” says Blackwell. In effort to do that, she’s planning to hand out 10,000 pink flags at the Super Bowl, come February, for a project she’s calling “Stand Up and Raise a Flag for Women’s Rights.”
“I’m going to see if we can get people to raise the pink flag and say, ‘We do care about how you’re treating these women,’” Blackwell tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I started a social media campaign, and I’m going to try to get as many people involved as I can. … This is something that needs to be fought until the end, and I’m just going to keep fighting until I see the results.”
Although Davis was not available for an interview, the former cheerleader shed light on her feelings in an Instagram post this week. “Sometimes it’s hard looking back. Actually all the time. But I don’t miss how hard I was on my myself and how unhealthily I was mentally and physically. (I can’t believe I used to think I needed to loose more weight ((& doing it the wrong way)))Crazy gurl,” she writes. “I’m thankful for the long journey of learning to do things the right way, putting mental health first, and loving myself through it all. Also it’s Friday so treat ya self🍫🍩✌🏻💪🏻”
In a reply on Davis’s Instagram, Blackwell — who speaks regularly with Davis — encourages her to keep going. “You are now a game changer. You have the platform to do more, to be more, to change the world,” Blackwell writes. “Go! Be all that God called you to be. I believe in you. I always have!!!”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- NFL cheerleader claims discrimination after being fired for posting pic of herself in a one-piece
- NBA dancers reveal decades-long culture of ‘brainwashing,’ unfair pay and eating disorders
- School community demands that cheerleaders in ‘bigoted and hateful’ video apologize: ‘Racism is alive and well’