If there’s one part of America where we usually aren’t talking about wage inequality and poor working conditions it’s the NFL. League minimum salaries hover around $400,000 for an entire season and even practice squad players who may never put on a uniform or see the field can take home $6,000 a week. Most NFL owners were billionaires before they bought a team so cutting checks is not usually a problem. From team doctors to field landscapers everybody seems to be getting paid in the NFL … Except for the cheerleaders, according to a new lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders.
A class action lawsuit filed earlier this week in California by former Raiders cheerleader “Lacy T.” alleges that the team pretty much runs a sweat shop when it comes to the pom pom squad. At first glance when most people hear that cheerleaders are suing their NFL team people will think “What are these cheerleaders complaining about? All they do is shake their pom-poms and get to hang out with NFL players.” and they couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re still living in a recovering economy, it’s hard out there in these financial streets, even when you’re sporting spandex and black and white sequins. While there are some perks to being an NFL cheerleader according to the suit, they vary depending on what franchise you work for and “Raiderettes” are getting a raw deal compared to most other squads. The team only pays $1,250 for an entire season of work, which might be okay internship wages if cheerleaders only worked for the 4 month NFL season. Unfortunately they work the same season as the NFL players, from Spring Summer practices all the way until the end of the NFL season the following December. On top of that they work under some ridiculous rules and restrictions.
1. Cheerleaders are instructed on how to dress, and how to wear their hair and make-up for being on the squad but are given no reimbursement or compensation for hair care, make-up or clothes
2. Cheerleaders are fined if they forget to bring a mat to yoga class, or wear the wrong work-out clothes to practice, or bring the wrong pom-poms to a game.
3. Those hot Cheerleader Calendars that come out every year? Raiderettes aren’t compensated for the hours upon hours it takes to shoot the calendar.
4. Cheerleaders are strictly forbidden from “fraternizing” with players, and can be kicked off the team for interpersonal behavior deemed inappropriate.
5. Cheerleaders aren’t PAID until the end of the NFL season. And fines are taken out of the final check which means they can actually end up losing money at the end of the year after fines and paying for clothes, make-up and fitness.
When it all gets broken down, Lacy T. and other Raider’s cheerleaders over the years are making less than $5 an hour when you consider the hours they put into the job. Cheerleading is never going to be a high paying job considering the hours of practice, the public appearances let alone working at the games, but there are other franchise out there that aren’t putting the screws to their pomp om squad every season. For example, “Sinsations” the cheerleaders for the New Orleans Saints can make about $6,000 a season with appearance fees and perks, or the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders who are given free tickets to games, free gym memberships and paid minimum wage. The Oakland Raiders are the LEAST valuable franchise out of 32 NFL teams and are worth $825 million dollars, you’d figure they could come up with California state minimum wage for their cheerleaders.
Right now there is only one plaintiff on the Raider’s lawsuit but the Lacy T.’s lawyers say that the cheerleader contract is in violation of so many worker’s rights rules and employment laws that there will clearly be other women signing up soon to get back pay and fair compensation. The Oakland Raiders have stunk for years, and haven’t sniffed the playoffs in almost a decade; it seems to me they should be paying the cheer squad more since they’re the only thing worth looking at on the field every Sunday.
This article originally appeared online at The Source Magazine.