Kristan Ann Ware, a former cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise, has filed a complaint, claiming that she was discriminated against because of her Christian faith and for her decision to remain a virgin.
Ware filed the complaint on Wednesday with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, where, according to The Washington Post, she reveals that at least two coaches on her team had told her that she should not talk about her religious beliefs as a Christian and her decision to practice abstinence.
"It was like a bus hit me," Ware said of an incident in April 2016 when she walked in for an annual work review. "I was completely speechless. All that formed on my face were tears."
Ware says that she was targeted for her beliefs, and while she continued on as a Dolphins cheerleader for one more season, she suffered under emotional and physical distress.
In another instance she alleges that Dorie Grogan, the team director, accused her of talking too much about her virginity to the team, though Ware insists she only revealed the information when asked.
Grogan is said to have told her about her virginity: "As far as we are concerned, you have taken something that was once upon a time pure and beautiful and you've made it dirty."
In a photo shoot where she had to wear a bikini, Ware claims that Grogan told her to play with the fruit "like they were balls" and to "make love to the camera." The former cheerleader says that the comments were made to mock her.
Although Ware alerted a Dolphins human resources representative about what was going on in 2016, she said that the coaches continued being verbally abusive.
"There is a sense of manipulation, where any time you raised a concern, it was like, 'All we need is a pretty girl to wear the uniform. You're completely replaceable, so if you have a problem with it, leave. One hundred other girls want your spot,'" Ware said.
"I want to make a positive difference where these girls can have their dreams come true without compromising who they are. The silence needs to end. The intimidation needs to end."
In another interview with ABC News, Ware noted that she also was "not allowed to talk about God," despite how public football players are with their faith.
The Dolphins responded to the story in a statement to ESPN, declaring:
"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."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy separately said that the NFL and its clubs support fair employment practices.
"Everyone who works in the NFL, including cheerleaders, has the right to work in a positive and respectful environment that is free from any and all forms of harassment and discrimination and fully complies with state and federal laws," McCarthy said.
Ware, meanwhile, said that a similar complaint last month by former New Orleans Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis, who said that she was discriminated against because of her gender, inspired her to speak out and to find Sara Blackwell, the Florida lawyer now representing her.
"If it wasn't for Bailey speaking out, I would have never been able to find Sara," Ware said.
"If it wasn't for God healing me and using my pain for His purpose, I would have never been courageous enough to tell my story. Right now is the perfect time to tell my story."