Five former Houston Texans cheerleaders are suing the team for alleged harassment and unfair compensation, joining a growing cohort of cheerleaders who have spoken out against the NFL.
“We were harassed, we were bullied and we were body-shamed for $7.25 an hour,” Ainsley Parish, one of the former cheerleaders who is suing, told CNN Money. “The Houston Texans should not have given us a uniform if they did not want us to become an army.”
Discrimination attorney Gloria Allred is representing Parish and the other cheerleaders who are suing, some of whom were on the squad as recently as last year. She said at a press conference Friday that the women were “harassed, intimidated and forced to live in fear,” CNN reports. The women were allegedly told they would be fired if they spoke out against the team’s practices, directed not to communicate with players and asked to make public appearances without pay, transportation or security, CNN reports.
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“We are proud of the cheerleader program and have had hundreds of women participate and enjoy their experience while making a positive impact in the local community. We are constantly evaluating our procedures and will continue to make adjustments as needed to make the program enjoyable for everyone,” the Texans said in a statement.
Three other former Texans cheerleaders are pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the team, citing similar issues. The five who more recently announced legal action are filing individual lawsuits.
Legal action has not been limited to the Texans, however. In 2017, former cheerleaders for the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders sued the NFL over low wages. Similar suits have been brought against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals, with many ending in the cheerleaders’ favor. In 2016, for example, the New York Jets had to pay nearly $324,000 to cheerleaders who said they were paid less than minimum wage.