The more we learn more about the NFL cheerleader scandal, the more terrible information comes out about how they’re treated, and what they actually have to go through. 

N.F.L. cheerleaders say they do not speak up about sexual harassment because teams warn them that they will be dismissed if they complain. More disturbing info below keeps coming in, and the NYT is doing a solid job of reporting. 

Via the New York Times

The cheerleaders quickly learn that performing at sporting events is only a small part of their job description. They are also required to fulfill what often is the unsavory side of the job: interacting with fans at games and other promotional events, where groping and sexual harassment are common.

In interviews with dozens of current and former cheerleaders — most from the N.F.L., but also from the N.B.A. and the N.H.L. — they described systematic exploitation by teams that profit by sending them into pregame tailgating and other gatherings where they are subjected to offensive sexual comments and unwanted touches by fans.

“When you have on a push-up bra and a fringed skirt, it can sometimes, unfortunately, feel like it comes with the territory,” said Labriah Lee Holt, a former cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans in the N.F.L. “I never experienced anything where someone on the professional staff or the team said something or made me feel that way. But you definitely experience that when you encounter people who have been drinking beer.”

Team officials are aware of the situation, the cheerleaders said, but do little to prevent harassment. Cheerleaders for most professional sports teams are required to mingle with fans at games and promotional events where encounters with intoxicated people can be harrowing. A former cheerleader for the Redskins recalled a particularly uncomfortable assignment: She and five teammates were sent to a fan’s home, where several men were drinking and watching a football game.

When venturing into tailgate areas of parking lots, cheerleaders sometimes go in pairs or small groups to feel safer.

“There wasn’t any protection from it,” Ms. Holt said. “You have to run around the tailgates, go to the tents, mingle with fans and shake the pompoms. And you sometimes get the disgusting old men who have been drinking and will say something inappropriate. It is common, and the industry knows that.”

The cheerleaders and dancers in Dallas, as in most N.F.L. stadiums, were required to visit tailgate parties and areas that are essentially standing-room-only bars. They visited high-priced luxury suites, and came to dread certain ones.

“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.”

If they did object?

“You’d be dismissed from the team.”

“Some of the fans’ behavior was stunning, even for me,” she said, crediting the Panthers with keeping security nearby. “What shocked me was that people said things even with the presence of security.”

Possible Legal Ramifications

Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer who for three decades has been bringing sexual harassment cases, including ones against politicians for both parties, said professional sports teams have a legal obligation to protect their cheerleaders from unwanted contact with fans.

“When they’re selling their looks and that’s part of what’s being promoted, it’s not unexpected that these employees could be subject to unwelcome touching, grabbing and the like,” Ms. Katz said. “The employers knew or reasonably should have known that the employee would be harassed, and so they have liability. They have an obligation to protect their employees.”

The fact that some teams require their cheerleaders to sign nondisclosure agreements, or N.D.A.s, raises a red flag in these situations where harassment is likely to take place, Ms. Katz said.

How long before NFL cheerleaders are completely removed from the equation? The NFL likes to cut all its ties to liability. This problem is only getting worse for the Shield.