MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – A former Miami Dolphins cheerleader has a filed a complaint against the NFL and the team, alleging she was discriminated against because of her religion and gender.
In the complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, Kristan Ann Ware says she was subjected to a hostile work environment. Ware, who ended her three seasons as a cheerleader for Miami in 2017, says in the complaint that she was held to different standards than football players regarding social media, outward expression of faith, and references to Christianity and her religious beliefs.
One example, according to the complaint, was in April 2016, when Ware says she posted a picture of her baptism on social media. Ware says she was questioned about it by the team's cheerleading officials, who also asked her about her decision to forgo sex before marriage. The officials asked her to stop discussing her virginity, according to the complaint.
"Basically you're a dirty virgin," Ware's attorney, Sara Blackwell, told ESPN. "Her whole cheerleading experience went from a positive one to a completely emotionally, physically debilitating experience,”
Ware's action comes after a former New Orleans Saints cheerleader, Bailey Davis, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last month and requested arbitration hearings with the Saints and the NFL.
"I was told that I have taken something that was once upon a time pure and beautiful and that I made it dirty, and that no one should ever know that about me," Ware said on ESPN.
Davis says she was fired over what her attorney described as "antiquated" and "blatantly discriminatory" social media and fraternization policies that are different for female cheerleaders and male players.
"The NFL and all NFL member clubs support fair employment practices," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement to media outlets. "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."
In a statement, the Dolphins said: "We are seriously committed to providing a positive work environment for everyone associated with the organization. We hold every member of our organization to the same standards and do not discriminate as it relates to gender, race and religious beliefs."
Ware and Bailey are both represented by Blackwell.
"If it wasn't for Bailey speaking out, I would have never been able to find Sara," Ware told The Washington Post. "If it wasn't for God healing me and using my pain for his purpose, I would have never been courageous enough to tell my story. Right now is the perfect time to tell my story."
A fellow Dolphins cheerleader who worked with Ware told Local 10 that Ware's allegations aren't the full story.
"She totally cut out a bunch of the narrative. She doesn't mention that almost every situation she was in, she was the one who brought up her virginity," the woman said.
In Ware's third year with the team, she held something called "Wisdom Wednesdays" to motivate the team, but the former cheerleader said it eventually became a church service.
"So then, when they asked her to tone it back she was so upset," the woman said. "But the truth is she made more than half the team feel uncomfortable because she took advantage of the leadership they gave her and tried to force God down our throats."