A former Miami Dolphins cheerleader filed a complaint against the team and the NFL on Thursday alleging that she was discriminated against because of her Christian beliefs.
Kristan Ware, who spent three seasons as a cheerleader with the Dolphins, said in her complaint that she was held to a different standard because of her religious views and her gender, The New York Times reported. Ware’s final season came in 2017.
Ware stated in her complaint that the team’s cheerleading director, Dorie Grogan, ridiculed and disciplined her after she posted a photo of herself on social media being baptized in the offseason, according to the newspaper.
Ware also contends that cheerleading coaches mocked her after it was learned that she was a virgin and that she planned on waiting for marriage to have sex, The New York Times reported. When confronted by Grogan, Ware allegedly told her coach she only shared the information when she was asked.
“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 Ware, according to The Washington Post.
Ware also reportedly claimed that an angel-winged bikini she wore for a fashion show in 2016 was meant to make fun of her virginity.
Ware said she went to the team’s human resources department in 2016 to complain, but the ridicule and harassment continued.
“There is a sense of manipulation, where any time you raised a concern, it was like, ‘All we need is a pretty girl to wear the uniform. You’re completely replaceable, so if you have a problem with it, leave. 100 other girls want your spot,’ ” Ware told The Washington Post. “I want to make a positive difference where these girls can have their dreams come true with compromising who they are. The silence needs to end. The intimidation needs to end.”
Even when Ware wrote a blog post for the Dolphins’ website, all mentions of her faith were removed except for a general reference to God, according to The Post. In her complaint, Ware stated that she was treated differently over her religious views compared to those of the players – who had a team chaplain.
“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.”
Sara Blackwell, Ware’s attorney, told The New York Times, that her client wasn’t focusing on any monetary damage, though “they are requested.” Ware was demanding arbitration from the Florida Commission on Human Relations and a hearing with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“What we all really want is for the NFL to pay attention,” Blackwell told The Post. “We want them to have us over and say, ‘Where are we going wrong, and how can we fix it?’ As an employment lawyer, it wouldn’t cost them a penny to make this a successful and wonderful program, where people could be proud and not be harassed and not be discriminated against.”
Blackwell is also the attorney for former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis who is also suing the Saints and the NFL over alleged double standards regarding male and female employees.
The NFL, who does not employ or operate the cheerleading squads, said in a statement that it supports fair employement practices.
“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,” NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “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.”
Davis and Ware appeared on ESPN together to discuss the complaints. Ware alleged she was told by Grogan that she should be quiet about her faith and “not talk too much about Jesus.” She recalled one instance when she was doing a photoshoot and Ware told her to hold a fruit basket as if they were testicles.
“I thought I was being tested because my virginity was just brought up in a negative light,” Ware said.
She said she started to become emotionally distressed and started receiving headaches from the stress.
Ware said Davis played a huge role in her coming forward with the allegations.
“All of this had to do with God,” Ware said. “It was God’s perfect timing and I had to be honest with my story.”