Why Are NFL's Cheerleaders Suing the League?

By Karim Akbar
NFL Cheerleaders
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Players in the NFL can command contracts in the tens and sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars. They can do that because they have a union that fights for fair wages. But for the cheerleaders that support the team and provide a team their signature brand, the money isn’t always divvied up like it should be. And they definitely don’t have a union.

About 3,000 women try out for teams nationwide with about 10 to 20 making the squad. The ideal look of a flat stomach and pretty face will get you in the door, but talent still plays a major part in the process. But for the young women looking to dance on a national stage, they have no idea what they’re really signing up for.

For starters, every cheerleader in the league is required to attend at least two charity events monthly (without pay). Cheerleaders get the bulk of their money from appearances and calendar sales. Prices range from $175 per cheerleader per hour to $300 for appearances.

But during the season a cheerleader will make about 30 or so league branded appearances, many of them official league events without pay. Not to mention, a cheerleader’s cost of maintenance, like hairstyling and makeup, must be paid out of pocket.

According to the Buffalo Bills cheerleaders, known as the ‘Jills’, the squad had to also adhere to a lengthy list of regulations to remain in good standing with the team. Checkout these excerpts from the suit.

62. The Jills were subjected to weekly “physique evaluations” during which defendants’ representatives tested the Jills’ bodies for “jiggling.” During the “Jiggle Test” defendants scrutinized the women’s stomach, arms, legs, hips, and butt while she does jumping jacks. The physique evaluations largely determine whether or not any particular Jill would be allowed to perform at the Bills’ next home game. Jills that failed to meet defendants’ physical standards received warnings, and in some cases were penalized, suspended or dismissed.

z65. In addition to the rules previously cited, defendants also provided the Jills with rules regarding general hygiene and body maintenance (a list of 17 rules), appearance etiquette (17 rules), conversation starters for appearances and general etiquette, etiquette for formal dining (25 rules), and rules for communicating with people with disabilities (17 rules).

66. The extensive rulebook set forth by defendants includes, inter alia, rules on how much bread to eat at a formal dinner, how to properly eat soup, how much to tip restaurant waiters, wedding etiquette, how to properly wash “intimate areas,” and how often to change tampons.

The suit is just one of the latest tossed at the NFL over what cheerleaders are calling blatantly unfair pay for work. Members of the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens cheerleader squads have either filed complaints with or are considering lawsuits against the league.

The NFL may not be taking the issue seriously, but these problems won’t go away any time soon. The shield will have to get serious about the pay scale because this problem will get worse before it gets any better. Fair pay for fair wages. Sounds good to me.

Karim Akbar is a Sacramento Kings columnist for Rant Sports  For More Sacramento Kings News “Like” his page on Facebook Follow him on Twitter @Kuhreem  Or add him to your network on Google+.

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