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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

The Bailey Davis discrimination lawsuit

The+Bailey+Davis+discrimination+lawsuit

How Saints’ guidelines create gendered double standards

Bailey Davis, a former cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints, was fired amidst controversy over an Instagram post and rumors of a breach in rules concerning an interaction between Davis and a Saints football player at a party. While this may seem like a fairly uneventful controversy, Davis’s subsequent complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is raising concerns about contradicting gender standards in the NFL that could set a larger precedent.

The Saints forbid any interaction between its cheerleaders and players, which is not harmful in itself. However, a clear double standard emerges when you consult the Saints’ cheerleading handbook against the rules for its players—the cheerleaders bear the responsibility to avoid interaction.

A football player may message a cheerleader online or like a cheerleader’s Instagram post, but it is then the cheerleader’s responsibility to block the player to avoid consequences in her own career. Even if the football player creates pseudonyms and attempts to find the cheerleaders online, the cheerleader must actively work to block all of these.

Cheerleaders and football players cannot dine in the same restaurant simultaneously as well. So, whoever arrives first gets to stay and finish their meal, right? Actually, the cheerleader must always leave the restaurant, even if he arrives midway through her meal.

Almost worse than these burdens cheerleaders must face to avoid interactions, cheerleaders also cannot advertise themselves or their career. She cannot wear Saints gear or identify as a Saintsation outside of games, which restricts these women from advertising their credentials and the possibility of gaining even a remotely equivalent reputation that football players can build up on their social media pages.

Why are these unfair rules in place in the first place? In an essay detailing her story, Davis describes the Saints’ reasoning for different standards for cheerleaders and football players: “We have these rules in place to protect you from ‘the predators’’.

This reasoning is victim-blaming, and it perpetuates a rape culture that our generation is working so hard to erase.

No one should have to follow a separate set of rules to convince others not to stalk, harass, or prey on you. Yes, these rules could hurt anyone working for the Saints or another team with similar handbook discrepancies, but we also need to acknowledge that the majority of NFL cheerleaders are female and the majority of NFL football players are male. On the Saints’ team, currently every cheerleader is a woman.

Therefore, we need to realize that these rules are not simply outdated. No one conveniently forgot they existed as they withered away into a past of restrictive standards for women. The Saints still actively enforce these discriminatory practices that make women bear the burden of avoiding potential “predators.”

We, the American public, also scrutinize public companies like the NFL. If they don’t make the changes necessary for a safer work environment, what other smaller companies might escape our watchful eye? Who else is victimized or silenced in the workplace, forced to follow the “rules” that’s supposed to protect them?

Instead of restricting potential victims, we need to raise more awareness about the culture we create. If we are fighting for equality and for safe spaces, then we cannot ignore these instances of discrimination and unfair gender expectations.

We as a country, as a people united by common ideals for equality, as a generation—have made progress in the past year tearing down unfair expectations surrounding sexual harassment. Some celebrities and politicians—no longer protected merely by their wealth, reputation, or fame—have finally faced consequences for harassing women. The Me Too movement empowers women to share their own stories and support others fighting for justice and equality.

Are we going to let cases of unfair discriminatory practices slide in places like the NFL, only to realize it will once again spiral out of control and ruin all the progress we have made thus far curtailing rape culture?

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