NFL Cheerleaders claim they are vastly underpaid and now they are fighting back. According to CNN, several current as well as former cheerleaders are suing their NFL employers over pay. Reports indicate three different lawsuits have been filed against the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders.
According to the lawsuit, the cheerleaders argue they are not only underpaid, but their contracts do not provide minimum wage. They are also not compensated for all the other costs such as purchasing uniforms and equipment or for the costs of attending practice or charity events.
Do Cheerleaders have a case?
Experts contend the pay of cheerleaders has been one of the league’s “best kept secrets” and when compared to the pay for other players on the football team it does seem rather startling. Although most NFL teams make millions of dollars each year, they are paying their cheerleaders almost nothing.
So how bad is it? An NFL cheerleader makes on average $1,000 to $1,500 per month, which is less than a good waitress at a restaurant. But how does it compare to other players and even the mascot? NFL Mascots earn between $23,000 and $65,000 per year. NFL players, however, are getting the most money. For instance, an NFL quarterback is averaging $1,970,982 per year, a NFL defensive end is getting $1,583,784 per year and an offensive lineman is getting $1,267,402 per year.
What about the players who never make it into the games? They are still very well compensated making an average of $100,000 per season or $6,250 per game. And consider these are games they did not even participate in.
Cheerleaders must work other jobs
So if the average cheerleader makes only $70-$150 per game it’s clear they will also have to do some other type of work to support themselves, but how can they when they spend hours practicing each night? If you thought they were getting compensated for practice time, you’d also be wrong.
One former cheerleader for the Bengals calculated her hourly pay for the year she worked and estimated it was $2.85. According to Alexa Brenneman, after working 10 games for $90 each game and making public appearances, her $855 for what she estimated was over 300 hours of work was less than minimum wage.
The Bengals are fighting back arguing that cheerleaders are receiving the payment they are “due under state and federal law.” The case against the Raiders is likely to end in arbitration rather than in court. The Bills lawsuit was filed by five former cheerleaders who are arguing they are also under paid, supplying 20 hours of unpaid labor per week. The Bills declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Disputes about Cheerleader compensation
So how have NFL teams skirted the issue of compensation for so long? Experts suggest the real question will be how the team categorized the cheerleaders. Right now teams argue they are independent contractors and may not be “subject to certain regulations like minimum wage.”
At question will be the distinction between an employee and contractor. Experts suggest this suit may have traction, especially given the amount of work the cheerleaders are required to do and how they are expected to “show up at particular times and work with others in a coordinated fashion and listen to a boss.” All of these factors point to them as employees.
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