Former Miami Dolphins cheerleader alleges she was mocked over her virginity and Christian faith in complaint
Kristan Ware becomes yet another in a long line of cheerleaders who allege discrimination and double standards in the NFL.
A former Miami Dolphins cheerleader has filed a complaint against the team and the NFL on April 11 with the Florida Commission on Human Relations alleging that she was discriminated against because of her Christian faith and gender and that she was mocked after she admitted she was waiting until marriage to have sex, the New York Times reported.
Kristan Ann Ware spent three seasons with the Dolphins' cheerleading squad before quitting in Spring 2017 and she says her Christian faith made her 'a target of discipline, ridicule, harassment, and abuse.' Her virginity reportedly came to light in October 2015 in London, when the Dolphins were set to play the New York Jets at the iconic Wembley stadium. When the other cheerleaders were discussing their 'sex playlist,' they pushed Ware to do the same.
According to the complaint "Kristin told her teammates that she was waiting until she was married because of her personal relationship with God" and that "She was sensitive to everyone around her having different beliefs and ideals so she further stated that it was her personal conviction."
It got worse after she posted an image of her baptism along with a bible verse on her social media during off-season. Later, in an interview for returning cheerleaders in April 2016, the cheerleading director, Dorie Grogan, reportedly told her: "Let’s talk about your virginity. 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."
But the ridicule allegedly would not end there. During a 2016 rehearsal for a fashion show where the cheerleaders donned bikinis for the runway, she says she was made to wear 'angel wings' to make fun of her virginity. Furthermore, she complained that when she wrote a 'Motivation Monday' blog post for the Dolphins' website describing her cheerleading audition, all mentions of her faith were scrubbed out.
The cheerleader alleged that Grogan told her to be quiet about her faith and 'not talk too much about Jesus,' and recalled an instance when she was doing a photoshoot and was told to hold the fruit basket as if they were testicles. She also said she was falsely accused of 'groping a fan's breast and butt at an appearance.'
Ware said she complained to the human resources department in 2016 about the discrimination she faced but that nothing changed. A team source acknowledged to NBC News that they were aware of the incident the cheerleader described and that Grogan was reprimanded for it. But Grogan continues to be employed with the franchise.
The source said: "In 2016, we were made aware of an incident with our cheerleaders that fell short of our standards and expectations. We immediately addressed the issue and reprimanded the supervisor, who subsequently apologized to the entire team."
Ware, however, is unimpressed. She is seeking arbitration from the Florida commission and a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, with her complaint stating that she has been held to a different standard than players, who can cite their faith publicly and even had a team chaplain.
She said: "I got told things like, 'You can't mention God.' I felt like I was walking on eggshells. But yet a football player can publicly announce whatever he believes in whether it's kneeling for political indifference or kneeling because he does have a relation with God and he wants to pray before a game, he has a right to do that."
Ware is being represented by Sarah Blackwell, who also represents former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis. Davis had also similarly filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against her team and the NFL for double standards regarding male and female employees after she was fired for posting a photo of herself in a bikini on her private Instagram account.
Speaking about her latest client, Blackwell insisted it was not about the money and that her client spoke about her virginity only because she was asked about it. She told NBC News: "She never once witnessed to anyone, she never once asked anyone if they believed in Jesus,” Blackwell told NBC News. “She is the friendliest person you will ever meet. If she talked about her faith in God, it’s because that’s who she is, not because she is trying to convert anyone."
Asked about Ware's intention, she told the Washington Post: "What we all really want is for the NFL to pay attention. 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."
The NFL responded to these latest developments by stating they supported fair employment practices. Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the league, said: "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."
"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." The state has six months to investigate the complaint.
The Miami Dolphins also came forward with a statement which read: "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 said she was motivated to come forward because of Davis and because of her own faith. She said: "All of this had to do with God. It was God’s perfect timing and I had to be honest with my story," but added that despite her bad experiences, she was still a fan of football.