Houston Texans cheerleaders sue NFL team for discrimination
Five cheerleaders for the Houston Texans are suing the NFL team for gender discrimination and for creating unfair and unsafe working conditions.
The lawsuit claims the team failed to pay the women for overtime and that officials harassed and fat-shamed them.
The women say they were paid around 10 cents per hour for their work.
This is the second such lawsuit against the Texans in as many months and just the latest legal action against an NFL team over its cheerleading programme.
"While their beauty and cheers provided ample entertainment for fans, the Houston Texans cheerleaders were never treated like the integral part of the team that they are," their lawsuit states.
The legal action, which was filed by women's rights lawyer Gloria Allred, accuses the team of failing to pay overtime, intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the dance squad, breach of contract, and assault by threat of bodily injury.
The accusers say they were paid the state's minimum rate of $7.25 per hour during the regular season, but that they were required to be present for countless additional activities for which they were not paid.
They also say that cheerleader coaches weight-shamed them and mocked their ethnic backgrounds.
One Hispanic cheerleader says she was told to straighten her hair or else the coach would "find another Latina girl to replace her".
One woman says a coach duct-taped her "stomach skin underneath her shorts", then showed the rest of the squad how much "better it looks".
The lawsuit states the cheerleaders had to tweet multiple times a day during the season and spend multiple hours in the gym, reports KPRC-TV.
"Stop penny-pinching," Mrs Allred said at a news conference on Friday, arguing that the women are owed significant backpay.
"Pay these women what they deserve, and be sure you pay them for every minute they work," she said, adding that fans "are complicit".
She also called upon players to "stand up for your co-workers".
"Do not stand silently by while these women who dance and work so hard to build enthusiasm and help you win are paid almost nothing while you earn millions of dollars for your efforts," she said.
A spokesperson for the Houston Texans repeated a comment made on 22 May when they were sued by three cheerleaders.
"We are proud of the cheerleader programme and have had hundreds of women participate and enjoy their experience while making a positive impact in the local community," the statement said.
"We are constantly evaluating our procedures and will continue to make adjustments as needed to make the programme enjoyable for everyone."
More cheerleader controversies
- NFL cheerleader 'fired for Instagram post'
- Cheerleader 'bullied for being a virgin'
- Cheerleader allegations 'concern' Redskins
Hannah Turnbow, a 2017 cheerleader who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, told reporters on Friday: "I stand with four of my cheer sisters who want to show girls and young women that we are more than pretty faces in a cheer uniform.
"We are a team to be reckoned with."
Several women also claimed that the team took no action after they had reported that fans had assaulted them.
"My attacker was not approached. I was told to just suck it up," said Ms Turnbow.
Squad manager Alto Gary is accused of telling one cheerleader that she has a "belly jelly" and a "chunky cheek".
Ainsle Parish, a cheerleader in the 2016-17 season who is party to the lawsuit, said: "The Houston Texans should not have given us a uniform if they did not want us to become an army."