The New York Times reports that Kristan Ware, a former cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins, has filed a complaint against both the team and the NFL with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
Ware, who spent three seasons cheering for the team, said her Christian faith made her “a target of discipline, ridicule, harassment, and abuse.”
Ware’s complaint alleges that cheerleading director Dorie Grogan and other coaches treated her differently after she posted a photo of herself being baptized before the beginning of her third and final season with the Dolphins.
Ware, who for religious reasons plans to wait until marriage to have sex, said her virginity was also made fun of.
According to the Washington Post, Ware met with a cheerleading coach in April 2016 who wanted to “talk about your virginity.”
Ware claims she was told to stop speaking out about her virginity status and was chided for sharing the information in a conversation with other cheerleaders during a 2015 trip.
“As far as we are concerned, you have taken something that was once upon a time pure and beautiful and you’ve made it dirty,” Grogan allegedly told her.
Team choreographer Brooke Nix is said to have remarked, “I think it is still beautiful, but you need to stop talking about it.”
The discussion was followed by rehearsals for a fashion show in which Ware says Grogan was physically aggressive and asked Ware, who was wearing a bikini, to pose in a suggestive manner.
“After being exposed, and having my virginity [cast] in a negative way, I felt so vulnerable,” Ware told the Post. “It kind of crushed my spirit to change into a bikini after that comment was made. It took a piece of me.”
Ware also alleges that most religious references were removed from a blog post she wrote for the team. She chose not to try out for a fourth season after her complaints to human resources failed to stop the alleged abuse.
•There comes a time in everyones life when we are faced with a decision that changes everything. After a lot of prayer and trusting what I believe God put on my heart, I made the decision not to return as a 4th year Miami Dolphins Cheerleader. For me, this decision was first and foremost about being obedient to God, living faith to faith and having the courage to always stay true. ••• •I am forever grateful for this position and platform to spread joy all over the world and make a positive difference in my community and our military overseas. This experience brought alive the connection I cherished from growing up in a military home. Traveling to so many countries on 5 military tours was heart filled and rewarding. Giving back and showing love and genuine appreciation to our brave men and women filled my heart with the most joy. I've met beautiful people with hearts of gold who have made a special impact in my life and relationships that will last forever. ••• •These three years have helped shape me into the woman I am today and I am blessed to say that now, more than ever before, my faith is stronger. I am so excited about where God is leading me next. ••• •I want to share my heart with so much love and give a huge and meaningful THANK YOU, with tears of happiness, to everyone who believed, encouraged, shared God's word of truth and supported me throughout this journey. Thank you to my family, friends, the @miamidolphins @dolphinscheer organization AND of course, to the faithful fans for your enthusiasm, cheerful noise and all the motivation you provided. Without you, @hardrockstadium wouldn't be the same! God Bless you and thank you! ❤️ ••• •Wishing the beautiful, hopeful cheerleaders an amazing time at auditions tomorrow. Shine from within! ✨ #GlorytoGod #HeLeads #faith #joy #spreadlove
A post shared by Kristan Ann (@kristan.ann) on Jun 10, 2017 at 5:18pm PDT
Ware’s lawyer, Sara Blackwell, who is also representing Bailey Davis in her complaint against the New Orleans Saints, noted that the alleged treatment of Ware is very different than that of NFL players, whose demonstrations of religious faith are welcome.
“Kristan requests the NFL, Dolphins, and all NFL teams immediately change their policies to be equal to both the players and the cheerleaders and to specifically stop all intimidation against the cheerleaders for maintaining and expressing their religious beliefs,” the complaint states.
Both the Dolphins and the NFL have issued statements responding to her charges.
“We are seriously committed to providing a positive work environment for everyone associated with the organization,” the Dolphins told the Times. “We hold every member of our organization to the same standards and do not discriminate as it relates to gender, race, and religious beliefs.”
“The NFL. and all NFL member clubs support fair employment practices,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy added. “Everyone who works in the NFL, including cheerleaders, has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws.
“Our office will work with our clubs in sharing best practices and employment-related processes that will support club cheerleading squads within an appropriate and supportive workplace.”
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