Give Me an “H” For Harassment

Michelle Lozada Alvarez, Staff Writer

According to Career Trend, cheerleaders often have previous experience in dance, ballet, tap dance, or any other form of dance before joining a professional cheer team. Some go through cheerleader workshops, where they work hard to get ready for auditions. They increase their flexibility, learn high kicks, hone dance techniques, and receive tips in these cheerleader workshops. All the hard work of auditioning, training, and routines is finally paid off when they perform in front of fans. Many cheerleaders, however, have reported the harassment.
According to New York Times, Labriah Lee Holt, a former cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans, states, “When you have a push-up bra and a fringed skirt it can sometimes feel like it comes with the territory…I never experienced this with the professional staff or teammates.” Team officials have been aware of the situation but do little to stop the harassment. Most cheerleaders for professional sports teams are required to chat with fans, even if they are intoxicated. This is because team managers do not want the team to lose fans.
In the same article, a long-time cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys, who wanted to be kept anonymous, talked about how she was greeting the fans when one man caught her eye. The man allegedly told her, “I hope you get raped!” Despite the horrible comment, the cheerleader claimed that it comes with the job and they are just supposed to take it. The Dallas Cowboys teach the cheerleaders what to say in that sort of event, but they were also told to never upset the fans. “We were taught, if someone’s getting handsy on you, how to navigate that,” stated the Dallas cheerleader. “We were told what to say, like, ‘that’s not very nice,’ to be sweet, not rude. Say, ‘can I ask you to step over here?’ use body language to help deter the situation. Never be mean…because if it’s not for the fans, we wouldn’t be here. That’s how we were supposed to think of this.” At tailgate parties, cheerleaders go in pairs or small groups, and they still receive inappropriate comments and actions from people. “You have to take pictures with anyone who asks. You can’t refuse a picture with anyone. If there’s a sloppy drunk who you know just wants to put his hands on you, you just have to deal with it and do it.” added the Dallas cheerleader.
The cheerleaders and dancers in Dallas, like most teams, are required to visit tailgate parties for the fans that go there. They have visited high-priced luxury suites for people who paid to see them. “You knew the alcohol was flowing and that they would be handsy,” she said. “Arms around the waist, kisses on the cheek. You knew they would, and you couldn’t say anything.” She addressed that they would be off the team if they object.
Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer, claimed that professional sports teams have a legal obligation to protect their cheerleaders from unwanted contact with fans. Cheerleaders rarely address the situation because they are either afraid of being kicked off the team for complaining or feel like it is an expected part of the job. “Every employee is scared to report sexual harassment…this is the problem,” Minna Kotkin, a professor in employment law, declared. “The courts have not been sympathetic to that argument, unfortunately. You really do have to report it, unless you can prove that reporting it is futile.”

Courtesy of Air Force Academy