Former NFL cheerleaders are suing Houston Texans alleging harassment, unfair pay

In part of a statement to ABC News, the Houston Texans said they "look forward to vigorously defending ourselves against these allegations."
8:13 | 06/15/18

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Transcript for Former NFL cheerleaders are suing Houston Texans alleging harassment, unfair pay
They break you down. With the harassment and the mind games that they do. They make you scared so nobody wants to speak up. Reporter: These former cheerleaders thought they'd landed the opportunity of a lifetime. Dancing for the Houston Texans NFL team. They literally grabbed her stomach and pulled it down, duct taped her stomach. A man reaches over and runs his hand to the center of my crotch and grabs. Reporter: The nine women now suing the team, alleging harassment and unfair pay. All part of a culture they say was meant to humiliate and intimidate them. You kind of learn to bite your tongue and deal with it. I was so thankful that I was chosen for that experience. Now I just look at those girls on the field and I feel sorry for them. Reporter: It's just the latest chapter in a movement of women fighting back and saying, no more. Do you think this is a byproduct of the "Me too" movement? I do. It's women refusing to suffer in silence about economic inequities, unfairness in the workplace. Reporter: Iconic feminist lawyer Gloria Allred is representing these women -- Ainsley Parrish. Ashley Rodriguez. Kelly turbo. Bringing their story center stage. I believe they're being targeted and discriminated against because of their gender. The Houston Texans should not have given us a uniform if they did not want us to become an army. Reporter: These former cheerleaders -- This is Ashlin. Reporter: Are suing the Texans as well as the cheerleading coach, alto Gary. Page. Ashlin. Jackie. Danielle. Reporter: Two of those women spoke exclusively with ABC news. Making the team was everything you thought it would be, glitter, glitz. I wanted this for years. I was consumed with it. It was my life. Then bad things were happening. People being called ugly names. We were being called jelly belly, chunky cheeks. Reporter: Danielle and Ashlin were rookies last season. Ashlin turned 18 days before trying out. She says her body looked like a teenager's when she made the team. This is right after I became a Houston Texan cheerleader. Reporter: That summer things changed and her coach noticed. I woke up and looked like a woman, not a 12-year-old girl. She didn't like the way I looked. I remember coach alto saying, you look like you ate a plate of salt. Reporter: Her coach told her she looked like she'd gained the freshman 15. I was appalled. I've never been called fat. To this day I struggle with weight because I was young and I was called fat multiple times. Reporter: Those women say because there was a culture of body shaming, some of them and their teammates felt they couldn't eat. I have had teammates tell me that they didn't eat. I have too. That they skipped meals. Reporter: Danielle says she too faced harassment from the coach about her appearance, specifically her race, saying she had to have curly, not straight, hair. She said, you're replaceable. There are millions of other hispanics in Houston that could easily take your spot. She did not have to use the term "Hispanic." Don't get me wrong, I am proud to be that. As an employee, she shouldn't separate me from anybody else. Reporter: They say the harassment extended into the stadium on game days. Jackie chambers says part of her job was to entertain fans in the stands and suite boxes. She says the work could be dangerous, requiring the women to have a safe word to alert security if something got out of hand. The safe word is toro. You could not guarantee if you said your safe word, you would be heard. It's loud. People are drinking. Sometimes if we get lucky we're with an officer. Otherwise, we're with a stadium employee. Reporter: She says one fan sexually assaulted her in the stands. Running back down the bleachers, a man reaches over from his chair and runs his hand all the way from the bottom of my boot heel, all wait up to the center of my crash, and grabs. Reporter: Jackie reported the incident to her coach but says she never heard of any follow-up. A lot of people are going to think, oh, well, you're in a little outfit, this is what you signed up for. I don't care. Whether it's your mom, whether it's your sister, whether it's your daughter, somebody grabs someone else's crotch, it's not okay. And I thought, wow, working for a billion-dollar corporation, they would do something about it, ensure that this didn't happen again. Reporter: These women say they endured all of this for minimum wage. $7.25 an hour. Despite their contract stipulating a 30-hour workweek, they say they had to be on call 24/7 and were consistently not paid for required activities, including some events and hundreds of hours spent traveling to and from events across the state. I think it's about that time, y'all, who's ready? Reporter: In this Houston Texans website video, Danielle talks about the long hours she says she was putting in. There's a lot of time commitment. I don't think I imagined how much. Working a full-time job and being a cheerleader is a -- trying to find a balance. Coach alto would say, this is a part-time job with full-time hours. And she wasn't lying. Reporter: Coach alto Gary says as much in that video. I say it's a part-time job with full-time hours, if that makes any sense. It doesn't stop at practice. Reporter: Another requirement the women say they weren't paid for, social media. You're promoting the Houston Texans and you're not getting a dime for it. Reporter: They were required to tweet multiple times a day during football season and expected to respond to e-mails and direct messages within ten minutes. If they didn't, they say there were consequences. I actually would send an e-mail out to a specific person, you didn't reply to this, we expected a prompt reply, if you don't reply next time this could -- what did they say? Affect how the rest of your season plays out. Yes. This will affect how the rest of your season plays out. Reporter: Last week four of Allred's clients came to new York City with a copy of their lawsuit to hand deliver it to the office of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. These are working women. They deserve fair pay. Reporter: ABC fuse reached out to the NFL for comment but has not received a response. Based on their level of training, do you think this should be or is a minimum wage job? This is not a minimum wage job. This job has value to the team and to the brand. It comes into a respect thing, I think. I'm giving you my heart and soul. For them to kind of throw it in our face and say, you can work all these hours, do all this stuff for us, bring in all this revenue for us, but you're only worth $7.25. Paying us minimum wage and then not also paying us the hours fully that we did work for you? That's just a slap in the face. Do you make a distinction between the Houston Texans football team and the Houston Texans cheerleaders? Do you hold the team accountable? They got comfortable. Us as cheerleaders, as employees, because we were too scared to speak up. Reporter: In a statement to ABC news, Houston Texans said, in part, that they quote look forward to vigorously defending ourselves against these allegations. We appreciate the Houston Texans cheerleaders for the positive impact they have made in our community and for the outstanding way they have represented our organization for nearly two decades. If there are things we learned from this process that we feel make our cheer program even better, we will make the necessary adjustments. We do not tolerate mistreatment of our cheer team or our employees at any time. We love our team and we love our city. We want the Texans to initiate this change. Because we know they're capable of it and we're hoping that the rest of the league will be able to follow their leadership. Change is coming. The question is, are you going to come along with it or be on the wrong side of it? We're on the right side of history. We're going to make a difference. Reporter: There may be strength in numbers but these women say there's even more strength in each other. I think we were a phenomenal team. I think it's a shame our couldn't didn't see that. I think the more she would bully us, the more she would harass us, the stronger we got. We won't be a cheerleader again, but I get to keep these girls forever. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm linsey Davis in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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