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Ex-NFL Cheerleaders Speak Out On 'Dark Toxic Culture'

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Ex-NFL Cheerleaders Speak Out On 'Dark Toxic Culture'

A number of former NFL cheerleaders have alleged a 'dark toxic culture' of misogyny, harassment and abuse is rampant in the league.

In comments made following the revelation that the Dallas Cowboys are set to pay $2.4 million to four former cheerleaders who accused a serving team executive of voyeurism, the former cheerleaders spoke about their own experiences, claiming that similar incidents were rife in teams across the country.

'It’s not necessarily a surprise, because there really are no repercussions,' said Mhkeeba Pate, a former Seattle Seahawks cheerleader. 'It’s so violating. It’s ridiculous.'

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Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders (Alamy)
Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders (Alamy)

Speaking during an appearance on NewsNation, Pate and three other women recounted stories from cheerleaders across the NFL of mental and sexual abuse, as well as low pay and poor working conditions.

Allegations included Washington Commanders cheerleaders being 'ogled' by sponsors while topless or naked, and Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders being spied on in their locker room through 'peepholes' by players from the visiting team.

'No one’s able to really speak about the true issues and the misogyny that’s happening in the NFL right now,' said former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleader Meagan Pravden, who claimed that many cheerleaders have signed non-disclosure agreements preventing them from speaking about their experiences.

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Pravden said that body shaming was common, while another cheerleader, Kristan Ware, alleged that she had been mocked by team executives at the Miami Dolphins after having posted about her Christian faith and virginity on social media.

'The NFL continues to cover up their wrongdoings with dirty hush money and the amount of NDAs that they are giving out is completely out of control,' Ware said. 'Cheerleaders are not the problem. The NFL and the corrupted system is the problem.'

Kristan Ware (Alamy)
Kristan Ware (Alamy)

The claims come amid an ongoing investigation into the newly-renamed Washington Commanders and the team's owner Dan Snyder, which was launched after a 2020 Washington Post investigation alleged 'widespread sexual harassment' within the organisation. This included claims that lewd videos of outtakes from a cheerleaders' calendar shoot were provided for Snyder on his request. He has denied the allegations.

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'It’s outrageous. It’s not just heartbreaking. It’s infuriating,' said Lisa Guerrero, a former cheerleader for the LA Rams-turned-investigative reporter, who in 1994 alleged in a lawsuit that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft had suggested cheerleaders should wear more revealing outfits.

'They are ambassadors for your franchise,' she said, 'and to be treated disrespectfully, to be abused, harassed, insulted is absolutely wrong.'

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact The Survivor’s Trust for free on 08088 010 818, or through their website thesurvivorstrust.org

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: News, NFL, Sport, US News

Hannah Smith
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