Earlier today, ESPN reported that they had uncovered documents revealing that an upper executive in the Dallas Cowboys organization — described by some as an extended member of the Jones family — was accused of voyeurism by four Cowboys cheerleaders in 2015.
According to the cheerleaders, Cowboys senior vice president for public relations and communications Richard Dalrymple entered the locker room while they were changing and stuck a phone out toward them from behind a partial wall, indicating to them that he could have been taking photographs or videos of them in a state of undress. The women, after spotting and recognizing him, chased him out of the locker room and immediately reported the incident to a security guard before going to HR.
No photo or video evidence was found in Dalrymple’s phone, but the cheerleaders’ testimonies suggest that they do not believe that the Cowboys’ organization did a thorough enough investigation into him. In their investigation, the general counsel examined Dalrymple’s work phone, but took his word that that had been the only phone he was using on the day of the reported incident. Dalrymple said that he had been in the locker room to use a restroom — a suspicious claim to the women involved, given that there was a restroom directly across the hall from the dressing room, per ESPN.
Though adjustments were made to increase the security of the locker room moving forward, the women were told that essentially nothing concrete would be done about Dalrymple aside from barring his access to the locker room. This prompted the cheerleaders to hire a lawyer to look at potential litigation against the Cowboys, giving them two choices: go public and fight the most valuable franchise in the NFL, or settle quietly for some money and sign an NDA, forbidding them from ever speaking about the incident.
In the end, the Cowboys paid out $2.4 million in total to the cheerleaders, divided among them, and Dalrymple remained in his position with the team until earlier this month, when he resigned from his position and continues to deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing.
The NFL, which centers around men playing, coaching, and executing the business of football, is a distinctly male space. Though 2020 saw women make up 38.2 percent of employees in the NFL, we’ve also heard stories of those female employees enduring harassment and abuse in their workplaces, specifically in Washington under Dan Snyder. The only place that women have a designated spot in football is on the cheerleading team, and if there’s a team that is known for its cheerleaders, it’s the Dallas Cowboys.
Founded in 1972, the team has a popular reality TV show called “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.” Texas Monthly recently began a podcast series on the history of the franchise’s cheerleaders called “America’s Girls,” and host Sarah Hepola said in a recent interview with Jezebel that “NFL cheerleaders were basically introduced to be ogled … It’s a design, not a bug.” The group is iconic Americana, made to draw in viewers with their beauty, dance routines, and often provocative outfits.
And they are employees. They are hardworking, public-facing employees of America’s largest sports franchise, part of an influential legacy, and to face harassment of the type that they have alleged — clearly based on perceived access to their bodies due to the kind of work they do — reduces the women to something less valued than an employee, something less hardworking than a professional dancer, something less human than the people they are. To continue working under an executive who you recognized attempting to watch you undress without your knowledge is a challenge that few of us would truly be able to comprehend, but one can imagine the sheer discomfort and paranoia that would follow someone through such a workplace.
A source told ESPN that the women “are still extremely upset. They saw it as a violation of their privacy that went unpunished.”