Former Cheerleader: ‘The NFL Doesn't Value Its Women'

Ahead of a Congressional hearing on harassment and bullying of female employees of the Washington Football Team, a former NFL cheerleader told LX News the league has a broader gender problem.

A former cheerleader for two NFL teams is speaking out about the league's treatment of women and calling on officials to do more to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination.

"It's very clear that the NFL doesn't value its women, doesn't value its women athletes," said Heidi West, who cheered for the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, on LX News on Wednesday.

West's comments to NBCLX come as jarring emails from an investigation into the Washington Football Team, recently rebranded as the Washington Commanders, could resurface in the public eye this week.

The investigation revealed several years' worth of emails sent by former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden in which Gruden used racist, misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ language, distributed topless photos of Washington cheerleaders without their consent and called for the firings of Black players who kneeled during the national anthem, like 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"Jon Gruden is almost a scapegoat for the NFL in this situation," West said. "What about all the people that were on these emails? People who are joining in or saw the emails and did nothing? Why have we not heard their names?"

The comments cost Gruden his job, and Washington team owner Dan Snyder paid a $10 million fine and has not disputed the claims from the investigation.

On Thursday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hear from multiple employees who alleged they were sexually harassed and disrespected when working for the then-Washington Football Team.

To win his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores will have to prove discriminatory intent in hiring practices, says legal analyst Danny Cevallos.

West hasn't been cheering for Washington, but like others around the league, she has watched the saga unfold. And the emails, particularly those that mentioned the cheerleaders, got her thinking about her experiences.

"I feel that the team that we had working with the Titans and with the 49ers, especially around our photo shoots, they were very trustworthy. I don't think that any of them would ever do that," West said. "But if there are nude photos of me that happened while I was changing during a photo shoot, I wouldn't exactly be surprised."

The NFL hired its first woman of color field official and a record 12 women were in coaching positions for the 2021 season. The league's gender hiring efforts received a "C+" grade from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport for 2021, up from a C the year before.

West wants to see the league change its culture by hiring even more women, and change how it treats cheerleaders.

"I don't think that we're asking to get rich, or that we're asking to be paid for a full-time gig, but just a little more would make huge differences in the lives of these women," she said. West said she earned $75 a game with the 49ers in 2012 and $50 a game with the Titans from 2012 to 2015.

NBCLX reached out to the NFL for comment on West's remarks but has not received a response.