HOUSTON – Five Houston Texans Cheerleaders announced a new lawsuit filed against the team.
The suit claims the team failed to pay the women as required by law and subjected them to unfair working conditions based on their gender.
Attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference Friday morning to provide more details on the lawsuit.
The five former Houston Texans Cheerleaders named in the lawsuit are Hannah Turnbox, Ainsley Parish, Morgan Wiederhold, Ashley Rodriguez and Kelly Neuner.
“The Houston Texans have continued to engage in severe and continuous sex discrimination and they have not yet been held accountable in a court of law,” Allred said.
The women claim they were harassed and intimidated, forced to fear that they could be cut from the team for the slightest infraction, and that the organization did not put them first.
"As an example of when I was not protected. I was attacked by a fan at a game,” Hannah Turnbow, a former cheerleader, said. “My attacker was not approached. I was told to just suck it up.”
This the second lawsuit filed recently.
According to USA Today Sports, three former Houston Texans cheerleaders claimed in a federal lawsuit this week they were subjected to harassment – including about their weight and ethnic background – by the team’s cheerleading director.
They also claim the director took no action after they reported to have been “physically assaulted by fans.”
Alto Gary, the manager of the Texans cheerleading squad, is the only defendant associated with the team named in that lawsuit.
Here is a sample of some of the allegations against her:
- During the 2017 football season, Coach Alto told one Cheerleader that she had “belly jelly” and she was a “chunky cheek.”
- Before one game during the 2017 football season, Coach Alto took a cheerleader to a secluded area of the stadium and duct taped her stomach skin underneath her shorts. Coach Alto then brought that cheerleader in front of the rest of the squad and showed them how much “better it looks.” At the next practice Coach Alto pulled out a roll of duct tape and asked said cheerleader if she needed it.
- “Coach Alto walked up to a cheerleader and poked her face asking her if she had gained her ‘freshman 15’ saying she looked like she ‘ate a plate of salt,’ ” the lawsuit alleged.
- Alto also allegedly told a Hispanic cheerleader she couldn’t have straight hair and if she didn’t curl it, Alto said she would “find another Latina girl to replace her.”
- After one game during the 2017 football season, Coach Alto entered into the cheerleader’s locker room wielding scissors and slashing hundreds of balloons, which spelled out “HTC” (Houston Texans Cheerleaders), merely because one cheerleader missed a step during a dance.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for the team’s alleged failure to pay the former cheerleaders for “off-the-clock” and overtime work. The former cheerleaders also claim the team didn't pay the federal mimimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“They pay them minimum wage for maximum effort," Allred said. "We know why. It’s because they are women and there are always more that are ready to take their place.”
“When I brought up the pay issue to the Houston Texans' attention, I was ignored,” Parish said. "We were all just pretty little pawns in the game that the Houston Texans were cashing in on.”
The Houston Texans released the following statement:
“We are proud of the cheerleader program and have had hundreds of women participate and enjoy their experience while making a positive impact in the local community. We are constantly evaluating our procedures and will continue to make adjustments as needed to make the program enjoyable for everyone.”
It’s a long shot that the lawsuit will accomplish much, mainly because the former Texans cheerleaders – like most around the NFL – signed contracts that force such disputes into arbitration and bars the courts as a remedy.