The NFL cheerleader

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“How would you like it if there were beautiful women whose only job was to keep you entertained? Women who kept their bodies toned to your exact specifications; spent thousands of dollars on their hair, makeup and clothing so they always looked their best for you; and had invested in years of training to do complicated acrobatics designed to bring you joy. Now add to this fantasy that these women brought you hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits and you give them almost nothing in return. Sound like a fairy tale? It should be.”

– time.com 

NFL season is back and the next several months will be consumed with Facebook posts, commercials, billboards, merchandise, and all things football.  I am not a big football fan by any means but my spouse genuinely enjoys following a specific team and I like to watch with him.

This past weekend, we were invited to join some friends for the home opening game.  I had several observations throughout the day, but what struck me the most was watching the cheerleaders.  I have never sat and really focused on them much.  I couldn’t believe how little their uniforms were, how small their physique was, and how tanned and airbrushed they all looked.  I don’t live in a hole, I know that cheerleaders exist and that they look a certain way; but it struck me how overly sexualized these women were.  While the discussion misogyny in the NFL is a whole different animal, watching the girls this weekend got me wondering, how much does an NFL cheerleader make?  What is the history behind cheerleading and the NFL?  Do cheerleaders really add anything to the sport and why are they necessary?

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I got home and starting to do some digging… my findings were disappointing to say the least:

A brief history

In 1954 the Baltimore Colts were the first NFL team to showcase cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Today

26 out of 32 NFL teams have a cheerleading squad

Wages and Pay

  • Cheerleading is an extremely physically demanding sport that requires many years of training and hours and hours of practice
  • Most cheerleaders make approximately $50-$150 per game
    • Some game days can be 12 hours long, leaving cheerleaders making less than minimum wage ($4.50-$12.50 per hour)
  • Cheerleaders are not compensated for practice time
  • Many Cheerleaders are not compensated for uniforms, make up, hair, and beauty treatment requirements
  • In a recent lawsuit many strict rules that the cheerleaders were held to were exposed.  These rules encompassed everything from; skin tone/tanning standards, beauty products that were acceptable to use, diets (ex. the amount of bread you can consume at an event), hair color, and what feminine products to use during menstruation
  • It is a cheerleading industry standard that women can be benched or fined for weight gain
    • A recent lawsuit agains the Buffalo Jills sited that the cheerleaders needed to undergo a weekly “jiggle test” to discern who would perform at upcoming games
  • During promotional events several Buffalo Jill’s reported that they were sexually harassed.  They claimed that they walked around in bikinis at a casino event and were auctioned off to ride in golf carts on men’s laps

What value do they add?

“Eric Smallwood, senior vice president at Front Row Marketing, has estimated that the TV appearances of cheerleaders on game days alone are worth about $8.25 million to the NFL, or $317,000 per year for each team in the league. Cheerleaders also provide value by promoting ticket sales and promoting the NFL brand.” – time.com

What’s being done about it?

“The issue is gaining traction. In just the last two years, professional cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals have filed wage theft lawsuits against their respective teams, alleging labor violations including misclassification, meaning that some cheerleaders were treated as independent contractors, not as employees, and therefore didn’t receive the wages or benefits they deserved. (So far, the Raiders and Buccaneers have settled lawsuits by agreeing to pay more than $2 million in back wages.)”- newyorktimes.com

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***Read the full articles here*** 

Time.com: http://time.com/3752957/nfl-football-cheerleaders-minimum-wage/

NewYorkTimes.com: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/12/opinion/cheerleaders-until-they-see-their-nfl-paychecks.html?_r=0

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