In a statement, he added: “Last year, the league office worked with clubs that have cheerleaders and encouraged them to review their programs to ensure that they were both appropriate and lawful. Since then, it is our understanding clubs made changes, which include providing additional security for public appearances, providing revised social media policies and providing more organizational support for cheerleading directors.”
Davis did not expect empathy from the N.F.L., but longtime squadmates were another story. After an initial flurry of “atta girl” text messages from members of the Saintsations, the Saints’ cheerleading team, she was deleted from cheerleader chat groups. Few of them called when Davis’s younger brother, Justin, was given a diagnosis of Stage 4 colon cancer last summer. Friends who were planning to visit Davis in Florida, where she was staying after she left the Saintsations, canceled their trip.
“They were texting me: ‘How could you do this? This is going to make us look bad,’” Davis said.
People hearing about her story from a distance have been more supportive. Scores of women, including some former N.F.L. cheerleaders, have thanked her for sticking her neck out and pushing for equal treatment. Many of these women saw her on “Megyn Kelly Today,” “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” or, most recently, “The Scarlet Letter Reports,” a Facebook Watch show hosted by Amanda Knox about women who have been publicly shamed.
Davis never imagined she would become a whistle-blower. But her dismissal by the Saints — ostensibly over a photograph she posted on Instagram that the team deemed too risqué, as well as accusations that she fraternized with a player — changed her attitude.
Her complaint exposed rules for cheerleaders that she said belonged to a bygone era. Davis said cheerleaders had to avoid contact with players, in person and online, even though players were not penalized for pursuing such engagement with cheerleaders. The cheerleaders had to block players from following them on social media and could not post photographs of themselves in Saints gear. They were told not to dine in the same restaurant as players, or to speak to them in any detail. If a Saints cheerleader entered a restaurant and a player was there, she had to leave. If a cheerleader was in a restaurant and a player arrived afterward, she had to leave.