I know. It’s easy to make fun of NFL cheerleaders.
Personally, I get to soar above both noticing and making fun of them because to my deep pride, my team–the New York Giants–have (a) no cheerleaders; (b) no absurdly costumed band–marching, sitting or otherwise engaged; and (c) no dopey mascots with big heads running amok all over the sidelines. (Which reminds me of a hilarious true story about what happened at the Metropolitan Opera one night, when a stagehand fell asleep in a fake tree that later had to flow graciously and magically with the rest of the forest but… he was awakened suddenly by a crashing big chord, forgot where he was, panicked and ran all over the stage. Crazy legs tree. And yes, it was Wagner.)
My team just plays the game.
But still, these stories of underpaid cheerleaders resonate, especially because they’re working for a very very rich league–and I’m not talking about the players.
Hey owners: pay the ladies.
For years, cheerleaders labored off the radar of enforcers of wage and hour laws. In the world beyond the castle that is the N.F.L., this is known as wage theft. But the cultural dial is turning.
Source, The New York Times: N.F.L. Cheerleaders’ Wage Fight Gains Momentum
Lacy Thibodeaux grew up in southern Louisiana, football country in all of its humid and insane passions.
She married, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and became a dancer for the Golden State Warriors. It paid minimum wage. Then she tried out as a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders.
That was a dream.
Thibodeaux made the Raiderette squad. She took long drives to Napa Valley for the calendar photo shoot. She invested, as directed, in expensive hair colorings. Practices stretched for hours. She made 10 required appearances at sponsor events.
After a few weeks, her husband asked: Lacy, where’s your paycheck?
“The team told me we get paid at the end of the season, $125 per game,” Thibodeaux recalled. “They paid nothing for travel expenses, mandatory promo events or calendar shoots.”
She said, “My contract was highly illegal.”
Such is employment as a cheerleader in the National Football League.
UPDATE 9/12/2015. And some cheerleaders followed up the New York Times article with an opinion piece:
Cheerleaders, the most high-profile women working in the N.F.L., are paid next to nothing and don’t receive even basic employment protection.
Source, New York Times op ed section: Cheerleaders, Until They See Their N.F.L. Paychecks