Former Dolphins cheerleader sues team, claims religion, gender discrimination

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - A former Miami Dolphins cheerleader has filed a lawsuit against the team after, she said, she faced discrimination and retaliation because of her religion and gender.

Speaking with 7News via Skype alongside her attorney Thursday night, Kristan Ann Ware said her coaches humiliated her for being a virgin.

“My virginity got brought up in a way that really hurt me,” she said. “It was super exposed, and so I felt really uncomfortable.”

Ware claims her choreographer told her she needed to stop talking about it, so after three years with the squad, she resigned and is now suing the Dolphins for what she described as “blatant religious discrimination.”

“I was told that my faith had to be a secret, as well as my virginity,” she said during an interview with “Inside Edition.” “It hurt me.”

Part of the discrimination, Ware said, came from a photo shoot that took place soon after she told her cheerleading cohorts about her religion and virginity.

Ware said she was told to wear a bikini and play with fruit in a suggestive way.

“While at a photo shoot where I was wearing a bikini that the Dolphins had picked out for me, I was posing at a fruit stand, and the director came up to me and got really close to me and said, ‘Oh, why don’t you hold these apples and play with them like…'”

“Male parts,” said Sara Blackwell, Ware’s attorney, as she finished the sentence for her client.

“Yeah,” said Ware.

“I thought that I was being tested,” Ware said in the “Inside Edition” interview, “because this was, I mean, just maybe just two or three weeks after my virginity was brought up and criticized.”

Dolphins officials said they were made aware of Ware’s concerns and reprimanded the cheerleading supervisor, who also apologized to the entire team.

A spokesperson for team issued a statement that reads, “The Dolphins released a statement that reads, “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’s lawsuit comes in wake of a New York Times investigation on NFL fans sexually harassing cheerleaders.

Former Oakland Raiders cheerleader Lacy Thibodeaux told the Times she was given instructions on how to deal with inappropriate fans.

“If someone got too handsy, we could just turn around and leave, but we still had to be gracious and say, ‘Thank you very much,'” Thibodeaux said in an article.

“It was a dream job for me, so I do understand why girls want to do it,” said Thibodeaux in a TV interview, “but it was only after participating did I realize, ‘Wow I’m really being taken advantage of.'”

Thibodeaux and Ware and not alone. Former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis said she was fired for posting a photo of her wearing a body suit.

Davis said there’s a double standard in the NFL when it comes to what’s allowed for players versus cheerleaders.

“I posted a picture in a one-piece body suit from a dance shoot that I had made, and they said it was distasteful,” said Davis.

Meanwhile, Blackwell said, she and Ware are moving forward with the lawsuit. “Also, we really want a sit-down with the NFL. We requested a hearing with the NFL’s commissioner,” she said. “We’d like to sit down, bring the cheerleaders in. They keep saying they want a safe environment for the cheerleaders. Let us explain what’s going on.”

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