As It Happens

Ex-NFL cheerleader files complaint against the Saints — but she's willing to settle for $1

Bailey Davis has filed a discrimination complaint against the New Orleans Saints, but she's willing to settle it for $1— if the NFL commissioner will sit down with her.

Bailey Davis was fired from the New Orleans Saints after posting a picture on Instagram in a lacy body suit

Bailey Davis has filed a discrimination complaint against the New Orleans Saints after she was fired, for posing in what they say is lingerie on Instagram. She says the team playbook rules are applied unfairly against cheerleaders and not players. (Bailey Davis/Instagram )

Read Story Transcript

Bailey Davis has filed a discrimination complaint against the New Orleans Saints, but she's willing to settle it for $1 —  if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will agree to sit down with her and talk about equality. 

Davis was fired from the cheerleading team in January after she posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a lacy black body suit. 

She alleged she was terminated for violating Saints policy that forbids "semi-nude, or lingerie photography" — a rule that only applies to cheerleaders, not players. 

In an emailed statement, Saints spokeswoman Leslie Lanusse called the allegations "baseless" and said Davis "was treated with dignity and respect" while employed by the team.

Davis spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about what she says is a double standard within the NFL.

Here is part of that conversation. 

What do you want to say to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

If we are granted the meeting with Goodell ... we'll all have the opportunity to tell our story and what we've seen in NFL cheerleading over the years. And, hopefully, he'll listen to us.

We're not asking for an apology and we're not pointing fingers, but we want to have equal and fair rules that are free of discrimination. 

Can you just take us back to January when you posted this photo? What reasons did the New Orleans Saints give for why you were fired?

They told me the photo was inappropriate and that I had a dirty face and they said it was not a classy picture.

And they said that in the photo I had on lingerie and that it links me to the rumours that I was at a party with a player.

Bailey Davis is pictured on the left in her New Orleans Saints uniform. On the left is the photo she claims got her fired from the team. (Bailey Davis/Instagram)

What would be the problem with you being at a party?

There is no-fraternization rule just for the cheerleaders.

This was on a private Instagram account, was it not?

My page was private and no one from from the Saints, including the football team, followed me on Instagram.

You mentioned this because they say they don't want the cheerleaders fraternizing with the football players, in this case the New Orleans Saints. They say the reason for this is to protect the cheerleaders from football players who might prey on them. Isn't that a good idea?

[If] we need to be protected from the football players, you should give the football players the role. Don't leave it on me.

The football players themselves, the men, don't have to sign any agreement that they will not contact you or to try to engage with cheerleaders. It's entirely incumbent on the cheerleaders to make sure that doesn't happen.

They have no fraternization rules or social media rules.

I understand that also even if you're just in a restaurant having a meal and a player comes in, you have to leave.

Right. We can't be anywhere the players are, obviously unless it's at a football game.

Even then, we're not allowed to make eye contact with the players or engage in conversation.

If you go back to the restaurant example — so the player doesn't have to leave or not go in if a cheerleader is there. It's just the cheerleader has to abruptly depart the venue if the player shows up.

If I walked into a restaurant and the player's there, I have to leave. Or if I'm there first with my family or something and a football player walks in from any team ... I would have to leave.

What kind of pay did you get as a cheerleader?

Minimum wage.

There's a new York Times story about a team cheer squad from Washington where they report that they had to pose topless for photos for a photo shoot while male sponsors of the team watched. And they were told they had to be personal escorts at night for some male sponsors at an event in Costa Rica.

The team claims this was optional. But the cheerleaders felt that if they didn't do that, they would lose their position.

What does that say about the culture of cheerleading?

That story is absolutely horrifying and it makes me so mad, but I'm not surprised.

Our calendar shoot was optional, but you were you were put down on by the director if you didn't come on the calendar shoot.

We were told so many times that, you know, you're replaceable, there's hundreds of girls that would do your job for free. So anytime something comes up, you do it.

New Orleans Saints cheerleaders perform in the first quarter during the NFL's Super Bowl XLIV football game against the Indianapolis Colts. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

How difficult is this for you to challenge the Saints and to challenge this whole profession of cheerleading?

It was very sad for me. It's something I had to talk about with my family. I had to pray about it before doing this. 

I've lost all my best friends on the team, but I've also had a lot of support from former NFL cheerleaders that have left the program and said, you know, thank you for saying something. 

You and your lawyer set a deadline for tomorrow for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to agree to this meeting ... If you don't get that, what will you do?

My lawyer has a plan for that and I will trust whatever she has going forward.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Sarah Jackson. Q&A edited for length and clarity.