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NFL cheerleaders recount unwanted interactions with fans

Matthew Childs Livepic / Action Images via Reuters

Current and former cheerleaders for the NFL and other leagues provided accounts to the New York Times of incidents in which they've been subjected to sexual comments and unwanted advances from fans.

"When you have on a push-up bra and a fringed skirt, it can sometimes, unfortunately, feel like it comes with the territory," former Tennessee Titans cheerleader Labriah Lee Holt told Juliet Macur and John Branch.

"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."

Both teams and employees are cognizant of the occupational hazards, but the cheerleaders that came forward spoke of odd job requests. One such was an assignment that had six Redskins cheerleaders sent to a fan's home for an afternoon where seven men in their 40s were drinking and watching football.

The request came at a charge of $1,200 per cheerleader, yet the cheerleaders were paid $100.

"It's literally like you're calling for an escort," one of the cheerleaders said. "It's not like somebody grabbed my boots, and nobody told me, 'Have sex with me right now.' It's a lot more nuanced. It's like every other abuse dynamic. You don't feel like you have the liberty to say, 'I'd prefer not to do this.'"

A Dallas Cowboys cheerleader recalled one game when she and others were walking by a throng of opposing fans.

"We were walking by, waving and smiling, and one guy caught my eye. He looked at me and said, "I hope you get raped!' That's the kind of stuff we'd have yelled at us," she said.

Most cheerleaders opt against reporting such incidents to their superiors for fear of losing their jobs.

"We beat out hundreds of other girls for this position. It was very apparent, always there - there is always somebody else who can do this job," the Cowboys cheerleader said. "We never talked about these things, never questioned them."

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